The popular rap song “1-800-273-8255” by Logic, which takes its name from the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, may have prevented 245 suicides, according to a study recently published in the British Medical Journal.
The song, which reached the top three of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017, when it was released, was written from the perspective of a person dialing the hotline.
“I feel like I’m out of my mind, It feel like my life ain’t mine…I don’t wanna be alive, I just wanna die today,” Logic, or Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, raps.
The operator consoles the caller, singing, “It can be so hard, but you gotta live right now…You got everything to give right now.”
By the end of the song, the caller states: “I finally wanna be alive, I finally wanna be alive, I don’t wanna die today.”
Upon its release, the song was praised by mental health experts for its raw depiction of the subject, as well as its message of hope and compassion.
“The day of its release, we heard the song and saw the lyrics and we thought, this is amazing,” John Draper, executive director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, said to NPR.
“I thought it was brilliant how the song never mentioned the service, but just puts the number on there,” Draper stated to NPR.
“So you first digest the experience of what it’s like to make this call and go through this personal drama that this caller is having. And then, you see a number attached to it … so it takes the person on a journey not only through a story of hope and recovery, but a place to go to get that.”
The hit, which has nearly 500 million views on YouTube, brought with it an influx of calls to the hotline when it came out in 2017.
“Overall, we saw about 26-27% increase in calls that year…The overall water level, so to speak, had risen and largely due — we believe — to the song,” Draper stated.
Logic’s song “1-800-273-8255” caused surge in calls to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Surprised by the surge in calls, Draper, who believed they were connected to the song, sent the data to mental health and suicide experts.
The researchers were able to link the increase in calls to the Hotline to three events related to the song. First, its initial release, then when Logic performed the hit at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2017, and at the Grammys the next year.
Researchers have called this the “Papageno” effect, which refers to the ability of media, including music, TV, or film, to change someone’s mind about killing themselves by providing examples of how to handle crises that don’t involve suicide.
The effect is named after Papageno, a character in Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” In the work, Papageno is suicidal after losing his love, but decides against suicide after other characters show him other ways of handling the event.
In addition to an increase in calls, the song may have also prevented an estimated 245 suicides, according to the researchers.
“The present analysis indicates that periods that were strongly associated with an uptick in calls showed a simultaneous decrease in suicides…We have not established whether calling behavior affected people who did (or did not) die by suicide after the song’s release,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is available 24/7 and provides free, confidential support in 150 languages. In July of next year, the number 988 will also lead to the hotline.