What’s Wrong With the Media Response to Logic’s Powerful Anthem to Suicide Prevention, “1-800-273-8255”?

calling 1-800-274-8255 in Los Angeles

The subject of suicide is again a hot topic in the media and in our high schools.

Sunday night featured the MTV Video Music Awards, and the song called “1-800-273-8255”, by the rapper Logic, blew up the show.

The song is about someone who is having thoughts about suicide, and calls the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

This song sends a vital message about suicide, and its tremendous popularity is testament to the fact that it strikes a chord with many people.

In the first verse the singer is in despair, “I don’t want to be alive…I just want to die”. The second verse is written from the perspective of the operator, who says, “I want you to be alive… you don’t gotta die…Now lemme tell you why”. Alessia Cara comes in with some of the reasons, then segues back to Logic, “I finally wanna be alive..I don’t wanna die”.

The power of the song is in its honesty.

The lyrics are not exactly poetry, but the message is honest, dark, and then– finally– hopeful. Because the song is honest about the darkness, the hopefulness seems just as real.

When Logic, performed the song at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, along with Alessia Cara and Khalid, there were dozens of suicide attempt and suicide loss survivors on stage, all wearing shirts with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on the front, and the words “You Are Not Alone” on the back.

Ke$ha introduced the performance by saying, “Whatever you are going through, however dark it may seem, there is an undeniable truth and strength in the fact that you are not alone. We all have struggles. And as long as you never give up on yourself, light will break through the darkness.”

The video adds an important layer of meaning to the song.

 The video portrays a young gay man struggling with the responses of his parents, his coach, and the parents of his lover. It is logical to assume that his suicidal thoughts and behavior are related to the way he is treated because he is gay.

However, some of the mainstream media misinterpreted the video in a way that is telling for our society, and we must be careful not to make the same mistake when we are talking to our children and teenagers.

 CNN reports that the song is “the story of a young man…struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity…”.

The Washington Post refers to “…the perspective of a young man struggling with his sexuality”.

Call 1-800-273-8255 in Los Angeles

In fact, our protagonist is NOT struggling with his sexual identity. He seems quite clear that he is gay. He reads a gay magazine, and chooses a male lover. He is clearly happy when he is talking to him, and goes over to his house to see him. He does not seem conflicted about this whatsoever.

What IS clear is the approbation of his parents, his coach, and the parents of his lover, and the extreme shame he feels as a result of their responses.

If we, as parents, teachers, school administrators, or therapists, are talking to a young gay person who has not yet come out, and we refer to someone as “struggling with their sexual identity” merely because other people don’t like it, we send them the message that gay people must not really be sure they are gay, just because many don’t approve of their choice.

This attitude will, at best, show our teens that we don’t understand them, and at worst, increase the deep shame they probably already feel.

The writers of these articles in the Post and at CNN are very sympathetic and positive about the song, but they must still be careful about the subtle hidden messages that they send by using specific phrases.

The media should be careful not to say “coming to terms with one’s sexual identity”, when what they really mean is “being shamed by others when they discover one’s sexual identity”.

We have come a long, long way in the effort to build both suicide awareness, and awareness of the struggles faced by gay teenagers. Logic’s song is a huge step in this direction.

We can all hope that having the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number featured so prominently in a popular song will make it available to many teens who might not otherwise know about it, and that is a huge blessing.

The message of hope that is given by both the song and the video is strong and clear.

love candle.jpg

In the song, Alessia Cara sings about the reasons to live, “…it’s the lightness in the air, When you’re there, Chest to chest with a lover…”, and the video offers up a joyous wedding of our protagonist, now grown, and finally a shot of the protagonist and his husband with their young son and the happy grandparents.

Good, strong, clear messages of hope and love. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7. There can be a happy ending. I want you to be alive.

Logic’s album “Everybody” got some lukewarm reviews, but he has not shied away from addressing controversial topics. He writes about his bi-racial heritage, and he addresses his own panic and anxiety (Anziety) as well as the themes of suicide and homosexuality in the song and video discussed above.

Whether or not the critics like him, Logic’s songs have gotten over one billion streams. People are listening. And thanks to Logic, a lot of people now know what number to call for help.

 Still Have Questions?

If you have more questions about how to help your teen or anyone you know who is having suicidal ideation, please don’t hesitate to call me at 323-999-1537, or email me at amy@thrivetherapyla.com and I will help you find the appropriate resources in your area.