LONDON — If you’re in need of a reminder that music can be a force for good, researchers from the Medical University of Vienna have made an uplifting discovery. Study authors report the song “1-800-273-8255” by American hip hop artist Logic contributed to both an increase in calls to the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and a drop in actual suicides.
These uplifting findings just go to show how important it is to proactively discuss mental health and suicidal thoughts – both privately and publicly. A major hip hop artist openly speaking on such topics in a popular song with a positive message is a great start and these findings confirm the track made a tangible difference.
The song’s title is a reference to the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone number. The lyrics describe an individual having a mental health crisis who is able to turn a corner psychologically after calling the lifeline.
Suicides dropped by nearly 6 percent after the song’s debut
Prior studies find that reports on suicide, such as coverage of a celebrity suicide, often triggers a spike in the overall suicide rate. However, researchers know less about how positive suicide-related coverage which emphasizes hope and recovery may influence suicide rates. Logic’s song, which reached number three on the U.S. Billboard charts, and was performed at both the 2017 MTV Music Awards and the 2018 Grammys, represented a unique research opportunity.
Study authors assessed any and all associations between the song and two main statistics: Daily calls placed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the number of daily suicides across the country. The team also analyzed Twitter activity to gauge audience attention over one month.
Incredibly, in the 34 days following three distinct relevant events (the song’s initial release, the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, and the 2018 Grammy Awards), people placed an additional 9,915 calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The study also notes there were 245 fewer suicides, or roughly 5.5 percent under the expected number, within the same period.
This research was observational in nature, and thus cannot definitively establish causation. Still, study authors conclude their work “emphasizes the potential population health benefits of working creatively and innovatively with other sectors, such as the music and entertainment industries, to promote new impactful stories of help seeking that resonate with broad audiences, leave a visible footprint on social media, and are safe in terms of not featuring potentially lethal actions but rather coping and mastery of crisis.”
“Interventions that follow these principles could help create behavioral change to increase help seeking and prevent suicide,” they write in a media release.
The study is published in The BMJ.