Association of the Song “1-800-273-8255” with Lifeline Calls and Suicides

February 04, 2022

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

In April 2017, hip-hop artist Logic released “1-800-273-8255,” a song featuring the phone number and services of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline), highlighting the benefits of seeking help during a suicidal crisis. Findings from a recent study suggest the song was associated with an increase in calls to the Lifeline and a possible reduction in suicides during the study period.

Researchers conducted time series analyses looking at the number of Lifeline calls after three events: (1) the release of the song on April 28, 2017; (2) Logic’s performance of the song at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 27, 2017; and (3) his performance at the Grammy Awards on January 28, 2018.

To estimate public attention to the events, the researchers obtained Twitter data from data reseller Brandwatch, examining tweets that contained the search terms “Logic” and “1-800-273-8255” from March 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018. They also obtained call data from the Lifeline, as well as daily numbers of suicides from the National Center for Health Statistics, for the period January 31, 2010 to December 31, 2018. Sudden changes in Lifeline calls and suicides associated with each event were compared to trend data obtained from Brandwatch and the National Center for Health Statistics. 

In the 34 days after the three events, there was a statistically significant 6.9% increase in calls to Lifeline over the expected number, and a statistically significant decrease of 245 below the expected number of suicides. Twitter activity related to each event peaked rapidly and reached their maximum within one day. Activity was most pronounced following Logic’s performance at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, with an average of 1,324 posts daily over a 28-day period.

Previous research on the association between media messaging and suicide has focused on the negative effects of such publicity, such as increases in reported suicides or suicidal thoughts following media exposure. This is one of the few studies examining the positive impacts of media messaging. The results suggest media coverage focused on hope and recovery from suicide can be an effective prevention strategy.

It is important to note this is an observational study, and although it found a possible association between “1-800-273-8255” and help-seeking, it does not establish causality. Even so, this is a well-designed study that compares changes close in time to the presumed exposure (event) to longer data trends that reflect expected numbers of Lifeline calls and suicide deaths. The results suggest an innovative and potentially impactful approach to suicide prevention that needs to be explored further.

Niederkrotenthaler, T., Tran, U. S., Gould, M., Sinyor, M., Sumner, S., Strauss, M. J., Voracek, M., Till, B., Murphy, S., Gonzalez, F., Spittal, M. J., & Draper, J. (2021). Association of Logic’s hip-hop song “1-800-273-8255” with Lifeline calls and suicides in the United States: Interrupted time series analysis. BMJ, 375, e067726. 

Update July 2022: 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now known as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline), and is now active across the United States. (Please note, the previous 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number will continue to function indefinitely.) Click here to learn more about 988.