I’m quite certain that I’m no longer in the target audience for the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Fortunately, I found out about an incredibly moving VMA performance through the American Association of Suicidology listserv. I have never seen any other live performance like it. Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid performed a song named after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: “1-800-273-8255”. It has raw lyrics from the perspective of someone experiencing suicidal ideation. In my work, I have heard people express sentiments just like those in the song. It feels real to me – the painful and hopeful aspects don’t feel sugar-coated or contrived.
That, in and of itself, likely reduces some of the stigma associated with suicidal thoughts. But, Logic went even further for the VMAs. He contacted a mental health organization and asked suicide attempt survivors to be part of the performance. During the song, the cameras show a diverse group of people who have survived suicide attempts standing with shirts that have the Lifeline phone number on the front and “You are not alone,” on the back. “You are not alone,” is a powerful message that specifically speaks to a major risk factor for suicide: loneliness. While there are demographic differences in the overall rates of suicidal behavior, people of all backgrounds can be affected by suicide. It was a powerful visual display of many individuals, each with their own journeys, standing together as survivors.
In addition to however many people saw the performance live, the youtube video has been viewed over 3 million times in 3 days (only 2 million were my views). All of those people probably have the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline memorized.
I am curious whether more people reached out to the Lifeline following the VMAs. This is a question that could be partially addressed through their call center data (update: it appears the call volume did increase) or perhaps via Google search trends (which was one useful tool in examining how 13 Reasons Why impacted its audience). It seems likely that this type of widely-viewed content impacts people and their perceptions of mental health. I am grateful that Logic chose to use his platform in a responsible, compassionate way.