On January 28, 2017, rapper Logic performed his hit single, “1-800-273-8255,” at the Grammys. It’s a familiar song and was a familiar performance; after all, the song reached 3rd on the Billboard Charts. However, what many people don’t know is that the title of the song is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Line (NSPL).
Samaritans Inc., which is a well-known service placement for many Boston College students, served as one of NSPL’s national backup centers in order to manage the expected influx of suicidal callers.
Emma Kerry, a staff member at Samaritans, argues the importance of representing the complexities and tragedies of suicide in popular culture. “The chorus (of “1-800-273-8255”) seems to speak to feelings of powerlessness and lack of control over life choices that we all feel at times, and his images of darkness and of feeling like one is drowning are not uncommon things to hear expressed in calls,” Kerry said.
She continued that there was “an increase in the number of calls immediately after Logic’s performance at the Grammys.” Similarly, there was a 50% increase in calls after his performance at the VMAs. If anything, these spikes show the influence pop culture has on suicide prevention awareness.
But if Logic uses pop culture in a positive, educational way, others could just as easily use pop culture detrimentally. Logan Paul’s notorious video depicting a victim of suicide in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, for example, treated suicide as a sensation and view bait.
It’s clear that pop culture is in conflict when it comes to suicide depictions. Even at BC, students can exert their influence through clubs, UGBC, or their friend groups, and affect campus culture in a variety of ways. For Kerry, that main reason why Logic’s performance was beautiful and meaningful was that it emphasizes that “feelings should be fully heard and acknowledged, and that life is precious.” As Boston College students, it’s essential to think critically about our actions and how they influence campus culture. As Kerry asserts, life is precious, and our culture must develop into one that embraces all life in all its beautiful forms.