Regarding the topic of suicide and how it is displayed in the media, 2017 has been a different kind of year. I say different because suicide has not been publicized in mainstream media—as in television shows and music—like it has in 2017. I also say different because there have been two major cases that have publicized it, and both of them showcase suicide in two very different ways. In my last blog, I wrote about 13 Reasons Why, and how the show glorifies and romanticizes suicide. This is not how suicide prevention organizations want the topic of suicide to be presented. Then, there is Logic’s Suicide Prevention Lifeline song, and the song’s whole purpose is to promote suicide prevention. This is the type of attention that organizations like Forefront want the media to promote in regards to suicide.
When I first listened to the song, I was disturbed by what I heard (and to top it off, I was at a party—and everyone was singing along). The song opens with the lyrics “I don’t want to be alive, I just want to die today, I just wanna die.” I remember thinking that whoever wrote this song did not think of the negative impact that they could and would be provoking, and I almost went up to the DJ and asked him to change songs, but then I kept listening. The rapper started singing about how he had no one in his life who cared and how he just wanted someone to save him—and then the chorus, which was initially about not wanting to be alive and wanting to die, changed to saying, “I want you to be alive, You don’t gotta die today, You don’t gotta die.”
This is when I realized the song was about suicide prevention. The song continues with the focus on helping someone who is suicidal and showing them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The chorus finally changes to be, “I finally wanna be alive, I don’t want to die today, I don’t want to die.
Although the song itself turns out to be a powerful suicide prevention song, the music video is what really helped me see its depth. Having the visual of the music video makes it more obvious that the song is about suicide prevention because we can see the narrator struggling with his mental health and then deciding to eventually call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
All of this circles us back to the importance of how we present suicide in the media and knowing the impact (both good and bad) we can have on people who are struggling with their mental health. This is why we should present suicide in a way that focuses on prevention—like Logic’s 1-800-273-8255 song does.
Even with National Suicide Prevention month in the rear view mirror, it is always a good time to reflect on ways we can improve suicide prevention tactics—from how we approach suicide in the media and also how we approach suicide in our everyday lives.
This month, Entercom launched an “I’m Listening” campaign to help end the stigma connected to talking about mental health. 2017 is a year different than many—a year where suicide has come into mainstream media, in a way that is more prevalent than in the past. Forefront hopes this continues as long as the focus is on prevention.
– By Sydney Friend Sifferman