The Suicide Prevention Hotline: Find It in This Rap Song

'1-800-273-8255’ is the name of the song, and also where to call for help.

Posted Aug 29, 2017

Pixabay public domain
Source: Pixabay public domain

Teens and young adults are a major audience for rap music - and also the prime age group for the onset of depression and the thoughts about suicide which often accompany it.

Most suicidal people of any age feel ambivalent about acting on their suicidal thoughts. But if no one recognizes their despair - or they can’t bring it up with important others in their life -  then that lack of social support makes the suicidal person feel even more hopeless and helpless.  

That’s why the Suicide Prevention Lifeline - a 24/7 hotline -  is so crucial. Talking to the skilled person who answers the phone can provide just that recognition and support –which can be lifesaving.  

The Song

The song, written and recorded by the rapper Logic, is amazing. It beautifully captures the interaction between two people. The caller says what is in his heart and mind: “I don’t want to be alive”. The responder provides a strong, supportive rebuttal: “You don’t gotta die, I want you to be alive.” The caller then is able to switch to the other side of the ambivalence, and makes a brave decision to keep trying:  “The lane I travel feels alone / but I’m moving ’til my legs give out / and I see my tears melt in the snow / but I don’t wanna cry / I don’t wanna cry anymore / I wanna feel alive / I don’t even wanna die anymore.”

Here’s the full song in performance  

How to Help Someone Who is Depressed and Possibly Suicidal

Because the person with thoughts of suicide is usually ambivalent about acting on them, there is a real opportunity to intervene and help them find treatment.

In a supportive way, you can ask them if they think they are depressed.  If the answer is yes, ask if  the thought of suicide has ever crossed their mind.   Make sure they have that hotline number to call.  Suggest they watch and listen to the song at the link given above.

 Ask them if suicide is often on their mind, and .ask if they have a method they are contemplating – a 'yes' to these questions indicates greater seriousness and may indicate a more urgent need to get help, such as going to the emergency room.

As a psychiatrist, I can say that there is no danger of planting the thought of suicide in someone's mind if it is not already there. Asking these questions in a supportive, objective way opens the door for the person to tell you something they might otherwise keep to themselves.   It lets you provide social support, which is so crucial in helping prevent suicide. (And, importantly, if there are any guns in their house, be persistent in making sure they are gotten rid of. )

The Power of the Arts

This is another demonstration of the power of the arts, such as music  literature, and film, to increase knowledge about mental illness.

This song does that, and  also encourages action that is lifesaving.   In fact, the director of the Lifeline says call volume increased greatly after the release of  ‘1-800-273-8255’ . On the day the song was released, they had the second-highest call volume in the history of  the service. Overall, calls to the hotline are up roughly 33% from this time last year.

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