NEWS

Logic’s Song '1-800-273-8255' May Have Saved Hundreds of Lives

Person listening to music.

rustemgurler / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A new study shows that Logic's song "1-800-273-8255," which portrays someone calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, led to an uptick in calls.
  • The findings underscore the media's potential for supporting mental health.
  • Experts say that informing popular media with the latest science can lead to positive improvements like this.

In April 2017, the rapper Logic released a song with a phone number for a title. But not every listener may have immediately known the importance of that number.

"1-800-273-8255" shares the story of someone who doesn't want to live anymore. It's through calling the titular number, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, that they get help and begin to feel better.

After its initial release, the song soon hit number three on the United States music charts and was even labeled a “suicide prevention anthem." According to a new study, it also led to upticks in calls and may have even prevented suicides during its moment of peak popularity.

"Logic’s song likely represents the broadest and most sustained suicide prevention messaging directly connected to a story of hope and recovery in any location to date," the study authors wrote.

Christine Yu Moutier, MD, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), also told Verywell how this song could be emblematic of a larger cultural shift.

"There are just these amazing ways that the music industry and artists can sync up with this movement of change that's happening," she said.

Media, when partnered with science and accessible health care, can change the culture and ultimately change behavior.

"When there's any mental health theme or story, the narrative has the potential to contribute to a positive effect for public health," she added.

The research was published in The British Medical Journal in early November.

What This Means For You

If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts—or just struggling and wanting to talk to someone—you can call 1-800-273-8255. There are also other options, including Crisis Text Line, which you can send a text or WhatsApp message to without having to call. Both offer free, 24/7 help in Spanish and/or English.

More Calls, Fewer Suicides

One of the motivations for the study, the researchers wrote, was to better understand the protective effects of media messaging.

Researchers started by focusing on three main peak periods in the song's popularity in the U.S. They then looked at data on daily calls to the lifeline, as well as suicides, surrounding these periods:

  1. The song's release (April 2017)
  2. Logic’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (August 2017)
  3. Logic's performance at the Grammy Awards (January 2018)

"All these events gave widespread public attention to the message of the song—that help from lifeline is available and effective," the authors wrote. Twitter activity, they found, echoed the song's increased popularity during these periods.

They found that the lifeline received more calls during these periods—most notably after Logic's performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, during which the number appeared multiple times on stage. In the month following, incoming lifeline calls exceeded expected daily amounts by about 8.5%.

In the periods surrounding all of the events, researchers estimated that the lifeline received a total of 9,915 calls—6.9% more than expected.

The suicide rate also slightly decreased. Combining the data for all three peak popularity periods, researchers found a 5.5% reduction in the suicide rate. That translates to 245 fewer suicides than expected, based on previous rates for the same period.

Researchers concluded that the song may have motivated people to call the lifeline and prevented suicides.

Uplifting Stories Can Help

Research on media's potential protective effects might be new. Harmful effects, on the other hand, are well-documented.

For example, high publicity of suicides tends to trigger further suicides. Studies find that news reporting of celebrity suicides can increase the suicide rate by as much as 13%.

The risk might be especially high for people who identify with celebrities. For example, in the months following the suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams in August 2014, researchers found a near 10% increase in suicides—especially among adult males.

But if media can increase the suicide rate, at least temporarily, can it also decrease it?

Stories of hope and recovery from suicidal crises may offer a protective effect.

"Mental health suffering and suicide are both considered public health crises," Yu Moutier said. And as work like Logic's song shows, "entertainment narratives can have this powerful effect, for good or for bad," Yu Moutier added.

Media and Public Health Team Up

Research finds that media representation of actual suicides can be modified to reduce its harmful effects. Even something like a simple reframing of the suicide can help prevent deaths.

The Mental Health Media Guide, for example, offers tips to change narratives on mental health by more accurately portraying symptoms and treatment. On it, you can explore tips by genre, format, community or identity, and theme or topic.

The guide recommends that folks making short-form digital content, like music, balance darkness with hope and consult experts. Yu Moutier said that she and her colleagues at AFSP consult on media all the time—they were even called to consult on Logic's song back in 2017.

When Yu Moutier was reviewing the lyrics before the song's release, she was at first worried about the implications.

"The lyrics start with somebody who is suicidal, who wants to die," she said. "So I was like, where's this going? It was starting to look like it was going to be set up for a possible contagion type of situation."

But, if you listen on, the lyrics turn around and portray this person getting help and feeling better.

At the end of the day, Yu Moutier said that studies like this show us that content creators wield a double-edged sword. Can they actually save lives? The research says yes. Can they present a danger to lives? The research also says yes.

"The first step is, 'OK, let's try to learn what we can and do our part to avoid suicide contagion,"' she said. And then there's the realization that creators can actually contribute to a public health positive narrative that saves lives.

"I don't know that all content creators grasp how real that is," she said.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Niederkrotenthaler T, Tran U, Gould M et al. Association of Logic’s hip hop song “1-800-273-8255” with Lifeline calls and suicides in the United States: interrupted time series analysis. BMJ. 2021:e067726. doi:10.1136/bmj-2021-067726

  2. Niederkrotenthaler T, Braun M, Pirkis J, Till B, Stack S, Sinyor M et al. Association between suicide reporting in the media and suicide: systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ 2020; 368 :m575 doi:10.1136/bmj.m575

  3. Fink D, Santaella-Tenorio J, Keyes K. Increase in suicides the months after the death of Robin Williams in the US. PLoS One. 2018;13(2):e0191405. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191405

  4. Domaradzki J. The Werther Effect, the Papageno Effect or No Effect? A Literature Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(5):2396. doi:10.3390/ijerph18052396