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Colorado suicide prevention hotline sees 40% spike in calls tied to song

Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners hiring more staff
Posted at 12:49 AM, Nov 08, 2017

DENVER -- A dramatic spike in calls to the Colorado suicide prevention hotline could be tied, in part, to a popular song with a powerful message that is reaching a new group of people.

Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners reports an almost 40-percent increase in Lifeline calls from June to October of 2017 (from 1,990 calls to 2,772), and they believe much of the increase can be credited to the rapper Logic's suicide prevention anthem “1-800-273-8255,” named after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

"We see spikes for different reasons during the year, but this clearly was one we're pretty clear was triggered by the released of this song," said Bev Marquez, the CEO of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners, which handles all the calls to that hotline number from Colorado area codes. "Because I'm a clinician and because I'm a CEO, I thought this is a great opportunity. And then I thought: staffing."

In part, because of the increase in call volume, Marquez said, RMCP is increasing training and hiring 2.5 more positions in the next training group, going from 14 to 16.5.

The song begins from the perspective of someone calling the number and saying that they "don't want to be alive" and follows that person from despair to hope. Counselors said the message was consistent with what they're hearing from the people who call in, and they credit the song with saving lives.

"I have one call that really stuck out to me. It was a 17-year-old who was having a lot of anxiety and had been in a crisis situation for a week," said Lindsey Breslin, a crisis line supervisor. "I said, 'What brought you to call today?' And he said, 'I've been listening to this song over and over again for the past week. And I decided today I should call in.' And we were able to get him the help he needed."

The video for the popular song has more than 137 million views on YouTube.

Counselors have said the message resonates with a new demographic that hasn't been targeted in the past, but is particularly vulnerable to suicide risks.

"I have noticed a lot of these Lifeline calls are specifically from teens and young adults," said Charissa Tvrdy, a lead clinician with Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.  "Even when it first came out people were like I just heard it for the first time. I've been feeling this exact same way. I wasn't sure where to go, but now I know there is an option for me."

With the spike in real calls, though, RMCP has also seen a spike in prank calls referencing the song, which they say has taken time from people who really need help.

"Colorado ranks 7th in the nation in terms of our suicide rates," said Marquez. "We have a script and just tell people that there are people really struggling that need our help."

For the most part, however, Marquez said Logic's song is taking the stigma away from mental health issues and helping people who hear it have hope that help is phone call away.

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255.