The Collaboration That Put a Suicide-Prevention Message on the Radio

Logic's song "1-800-273-8255," which shares its name with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's phone number, has become a major hit in recent weeks—putting an uplifting message on the radio and fresh attention on the topic of suicide prevention. Here's how the collaboration between rapper and nonprofit went down.

The chart-topping rapper Logic’s latest hit is striking for a few reasons. For one thing, its title, “1-800-273-8255,” is unusual for a pop song.

But this specific phone number, for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, underlines both the intent of the song, which also features Alessia Cara and Khalid, and the hard-to-ignore emotions that went into the tune. And in the midst of National Suicide Prevention Week, taking place September 10–16, the song has become a top-five hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

As a result of the number’s increased attention, the Lifeline, which is administered by the Mental Health Association of New York City, has been getting a lot more calls these days.

“We even had an individual who called and he didn’t know what the number was,” Lifeline Associate Project Director Shari Sinwelski noted to BuzzFeed News last month. “He thought maybe it was going to be a radio station or something, and so when he called and he realized what it was, he actually needed to talk to somebody. It’s interesting to think about those people who maybe would never have called in another situation.”

The rapper, who topped the Billboard 200 with his album Everybody earlier this year, directly collaborated with the Lifeline on the song, giving them a chance to prepare for the extra attention the number would receive.

“We believe this is a great example of how it is possible for artists and the media to address suicide thoughtfully and creatively, alongside people in the field,” Frances Gonzalez, the Lifeline’s director of communications, said in comments to Billboard earlier this year.

Logic wrote the song after being inspired by fans who expressed to him that his music saved their lives.

“In my mind, I was like, ‘Man, I wasn’t even trying to save anybody’s life,'” the Maryland rapper said in an interview with Genius earlier this year. “And then it hit me—the power that I have as an artist with a voice. I wasn’t even trying to save your life. Now what could happen if I actually did?”

While the song got attention upon its initial release, there were two separate events recently that brought the message to new heights.

In August, the release of the song’s music video, which features a wide array of well-known actors—including Oscar nominee Don Cheadle, Luis Guzmán, and Matthew Modine—gave the song fresh notice. The real star of the video, however, is the storyline, which features actor Coy Stewart as a high-school student struggling with his sexuality.

And at last month’s MTV Video Music Awards, the song received its largest stage yet—and the phone number a 50 percent increase in callers.

Sinwelski, who was onstage during Logic’s performance that night, told BuzzFeed News that the song’s message was clearly having an impact on the intended audience.

“There’s a lot that we can learn from people who have been through a really dark place and said, ‘I’m still here, I’m still standing, and this is how I’ve done it,'” she stated. “I think Logic had heard that message when we’d spoken to him in the past about trying to give that message of hope out there, that hope and healing can happen.”

The song’s success comes during a period when suicide prevention has been in the mainstream conversation multiple times. Earlier this year, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why drew criticism from mental health, school, and suicide-prevention groups over its portrayal of the issue.

Rapper Logic, the whose song "1-800-273-8255" has become a suicide-prevention anthem. (via the artist's Facebook page)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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