In late March, the hotly discussed 13 Reasons Why arrived on Netflix. Since its debut, the show has gained heavy criticism (which executive producer Selena Gomez has since responded to) claiming it can be too graphic at times, while some also argue it lacked sensitivity and failed to shed light on the underlying issues surrounding mental health and suicide.
Nearly a month later, Logic, Alessia Cara and Khalid teamed up to drop a song that also touches on the topic of suicide — and the song went as far as to use the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as its title: “1-800-273-8255.”
Frances Gonzalez, director of communications for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, says they were aware of the song well ahead of its release date. As a result, they were able to make a plan, put together a press release and prepare for a surplus of calls to come in. In the release, Logic says, “In [this song] we hear a person at the end of their rope. We then hear words from the perspective of the Lifeline counselor who in turn gives them many reasons to keep fighting for their life…. Finally, we hear the caller express their new lease on life and outlook on a life that they thought was over but had actually been far from it all along.”
Gonzalez spoke with Billboard over email about how the call center prepared and what she makes of how the subject of suicide has become a prominent topic in entertainment lately.
How did this song come about? Did Logic have to get the song title approved, and what was that process like?
Logic’s team approached us with the possibility of collaborating on a suicide prevention message. They let us know that Logic had written a song about suicide with a message of hope and recovery, that they hoped to name it after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and that they’d like to work with us to get that positive message out. It’s important to us at the Lifeline that we find ways to reach people that might be in crisis and share the message that support is available, and Logic shared those same goals and took that message just as seriously. We were absolutely onboard.
How did you react when you first heard about the song?
We were honored to learn the song would not only be about a Lifeline caller, but would be named after us. We’re still excited about its possibilities. 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. Logic’s song is an opportunity to make the conversation about suicide a conversation about how people can find hope and that support is available for anyone that needs it.
The day the song dropped, what was it like in the call centers?
The Lifeline is composed of a network of local crisis centers across the country. The Lifeline experienced a significant increase in call volume the day the song dropped, but volume has returned to typical levels since.
How did the center manage/get ahead of the extra calls coming in? Did it clog up the lines at all?
The Lifeline’s network is built to accommodate spikes in call volume. Knowing ahead of time that this song was coming out allowed us to alert the centers in advance so that they could prepare if necessary and familiarize themselves if people called and specifically referenced this song.
What do you make of the attention being placed on suicide right now in entertainment, from this song to the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why?
These discussions about suicide in media are opportunities to share how individual actions can have a positive impact in the life of someone in crisis, and to provide people with the tools and resources to do so. The Lifeline’s #BeThe1To action steps, for instance, are a blueprint of five accessible, individual actions anyone can take to help someone who may be thinking of suicide, and aims to share these stories of action and hope. We also believe that Logic’s song shows that collaboration between suicide prevention organizations and creators is possible, and that together we can create and recognize work that promotes positive messaging.