[TW: Suicide/suicidal ideation/life after these. The number above is for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you need a sign, here it is: You are worth that call.]
Today, I wrote a piece for a client in which I spent 300 words or so meditating on Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” which doubles as a PSA for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Logic has called the song (ft. Alessia Cara and Khalid) the most important of his career; considering that the NSPL has seen an increase of 25 percent in its web and phone traffic since the PSA came out last year and some of its highest call volumes ever, it’s easy to see why. This song is literally saving lives.
I spent some of that 300 words talking about how “1-800-273-8255” addresses an aspect of suicidal ideation that, in our rush to hand out hotline numbers and reassure people they can “talk to us,” we don’t often discuss.
Because here’s the thing: In the moment, suicidal ideation isn’t the problem. It’s a solution. It’s a moment of perfect clarity in which you know that everyone you love most in the world would be better without you.
It’s not true, fyi. But it feels True with a capital T, the only thing that does when, as Angel Haze puts it, “everything in your world ain’t been right for so long.” And it’s dangerous as shit; the average time between that moment of clarity and death is five minutes.
It is a literally life-threatening moment. And it’s the moment that tools like the NSPL and the “reaching out” type campaigns are trying to forestall; they’re trying to catch people at the moments before that, the ones where damn, this sounds like a really good idea or even still a bad one, but the only one.
And a lot of campaigns never get past that moment. They see the emergency; they focus on it. The NSPL and the Trevor Project focus their interventions there. And they should. We need that. They really do save lives.
If, in that moment, you pick up the phone and call, or you reach out to another person, or you walk outside your house because you’re sure you won’t hurt yourself in front of random street strangers, or you hug your dog, or you do literally anything else, there’s a second moment that is the other side of suicidal ideation.
It’s the side where you live. It’s the side where you come out with a knowledge no one else has or can have, the knowledge of what it is like to be in that moment. It’s the side where you learn how to be the source of support and kindness for other people that you needed at your most desperate moment. It’s the side where you learn to save lives.
And while “1-800-273-8255” is not ever going to be one of my favorite pieces musically, it’s always going to be among my favorites narratively and conceptually. Because the entire second half of the song is about that second half of your life. Logic doesn’t shy away from the terrible clarity of ideation, but he (and Alessia Cara and Khalid) do an excellent job of showing what happens when you give yourself one more chance to survive it.
And: You will probably always cry about it.
By “always,” I don’t mean “forever.” I mean that you’ll run across periodic moments for the rest of your life where this conversation will come up. And you’ll cry not because you made the wrong choice, but because you now know what it means not only to survive, but to be the survival link for others that you needed in that moment.
I had to walk away from my computer earlier to cry. I’m not sorry I lived; if anything, I’m the opposite of sorry I lived. Becoming the person for others that I needed then has been the crowning joy and achievement of my life, and I could live another hundred years without regretting it.
But it always leaves you a little bit open. It has to, or you become the kind of person who put you in that hole instead of the kind of person you needed in order to climb out. There are always tears.
They’re just really okay tears. They’re your tears. And you’re worth it.