Logic's VMA Performance Features Powerful Suicide Prevention Message

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Every year, the MTV Video Music Awards has a few unexpected moments. This year, to our pleasant surprise, one of those moments featured suicide awareness.

On Sunday, when Logic performed his powerful song “1-800-273-8255,” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline took center stage — on the shirts of suicide survivors. 

Near the end of his performance, Logic added an equally powerful statement:

I just want to take a moment right now and thank you all so much for giving me a platform to talk about something that mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about. Mental health, anxiety, suicide, depression and so much more that I talk about on this album. From racism, discrimination, sexism, domestic violence, sexual assault and so much more. I don’t give a damn if you’re black, white or any color in between. I don’t care if you’re Christian, you’re Muslim, you’re gay, you’re straight, I am gonna fight for your equality because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally and that is why we must fight. We must fight for the equality of every man, woman and child regardless of race, religion, color, creed and sexual orientation. So I say here and now if you believe in this message and my message of peace, love and positivity and equality for all, then I demand that you rise to your feet and applaud not only for yourselves but for the foundation we are laying for our children.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

It’s not every day you see suicide prevention awareness on live TV.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Why Hasn’t Instagram Taken Down This Rapper’s Fake Suicide Video?

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Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Sarah Schuster, The Mighty’s Mental Health Editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway. 

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

In what he claims was not a publicity stunt, rapper XXXTentacion posted a video to his Instagram of what appears to be him dangling from a tree after hanging himself.

Both criticism and concern were swift from many of his 2.8 million followers, and the short video — which was posted without comment — has been viewed over a million times in less than a day. About four hours after posting the troublesome video, the rapper posted a follow-up video to show that he did not, in fact, kill himself, and that the post was actually a sneak peek of his upcoming music video.

He wrote, “If you thought I would ‘pretend’ to kill myself for a publicity stunt you’re fucking stupid.”

According to Hip Hop DX, XXXTentacion added in a live stream, “It was a prop for my music video. Everybody needs to chill the fuck out. I was just trying to preview it. I didn’t know people would not catch on… I was in the middle of shooting it, so I couldn’t explain myself … I’m not playing around with suicide. Especially since I had a girl kill herself in my fuckin’ hotel room. Not even two, three months ago.”

But, as some pointed out on Twitter, the content of the video was problematic, real or not.

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While the debate in the comments section of the video was largely about whether or not the video — which has not been taken down — should have been posted in the first place. Another question begs to be answered: Should a video of someone hanging themselves, fake or not, be allowed to be posted on Instagram at all?

Instagram is infamously quick to take down photos of nudity (specifically: female nipples), and has a section in its community guidelines specifically explaining its nudity policy. The guidelines also go into detail about Instagram’s self-harm and violence policy, but there’s no language that addresses suicide attempts or suicidal behavior.

So while Instagram will remove posts that it deems triggering or unhelpful for people who self-harm, what does this mean for suicide?

Facebook is no stranger to this problem, and you can find plenty of heartbreaking reports online about users who have used its live streaming feature to share their suicide or other acts of violence. Facebook has been criticized for being too slow to delete these posts and recently hired more moderators to handle the influx of violent or triggering live videos on its platform.

For a casual Instagram user scrolling through their feed, whether an act of violence or suicide is real or not does not lessen its potential impact, especially when the video is ambiguous. When the popular Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” depicted a fictitious (but very real looking) suicide scene, at the very least, viewers were able to maybe prepare themselves or chose not to watch if they knew the content would be triggering. But people don’t have this luxury of choice when something appears in their social media feed — and when we opt in to following accounts, we’re typically not expecting to see a video of someone taking their life, no matter how “edgy” or controversial the person may be. It’s not fair when a video depicting suicide pops up in a user’s feed, without any warning.

Even with the precautions “13 Reasons Why” took, its graphic suicide scene was criticized because no matter how many trigger warnings you use, experts argue that graphic images of suicide aren’t helpful. Ever. As John Ackerman, a clinical psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, previously told The Mighty, “Are we going to make the people of Flint, Michigan drink a bunch of poisonous water to bring awareness to the fact that they should have clean water?”

Essentially, showing suicide isn’t the same thing as spreading suicide prevention, and because of this, many arguments trying to justify a graphic suicide scene fall flat. In reality, choices to include graphic depictions of suicide are motivated by “entertainment value,” and are only good for triggering or re-traumatizing both suicide loss survivors and suicide attempt survivors, while possibly putting people who struggle with suicidal ideation at risk. Instead of spreading awareness of what suicide looks like, it’s much more useful to spread awareness that suicidal thoughts aren’t shameful, that there’s support available for people who are suicidal and that there are people who have survived both suicide attempt and suicidality who can provide hope for others. These are things everybody, music artist or not, should think about before sharing graphic images or photos in the name of being edgy or promoting “suicide awareness.”

If social media platforms have guidelines about self-injury, it’s time they have guidelines about suicide methods as well. Reporting on suicide guidelines suggest refraining from describing suicide methods, and it’s reasonable this same standard is used for videos on social media. Because if Instagram really wants to “clean up the internet,” as its CEO has claimed, it shouldn’t forget about people who could be affected by images of suicide — real or not.

The Mighty reached out to Instagram about XXXTentacion’s post and has yet to hear back.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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When Suicide Is at the Forefront of Your Mind

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I caught myself talking about suicide again today. I can be honest with you that I really don’t have enough nerve to do it. Unfortunately, with the mixture of all the medications and the constant pain from chronic illness, it is front and center on my mind lately.

My husband and I were sitting there, watching our 2-year-old so excited about one of his favorite shows, holding hands, savoring the moment… and it just came out. “I can see how people cannot be able to live my life. I can definitely see how suicide is an option.” He turned and looked me straight-faced and said, “I can see it too.”

My husband is my backbone, my strength. He picks me up and helps me to bed some nights. He helps dress me when I don’t have the power to move. He has seen me at my worst. So his response was not a shock to me in any way. I actually feel he understands more than anyone, with that response.

It’s not a feeling of failure to think about suicide. It is actually feeling remorse for yourself, for the “old” you before chronic illness. It is a level of grieving that is so very common, yet not many people voice it. Fortunately for me, I have dealt with mental illness for quite a while (panic attacks and anxiety), so I have learned how to calm myself and learned what signs to look out for with my anxiety, so I can step back and take my meds. But for someone just given a diagnosis, I don’t believe there are many physicians that discuss the possibility for mental illness issues, and people can feel intimidated or scared to talk about it.

I have to be honest — I had not once been asked by either my PCP or my rheumatologist, at any time, how I was actually mentally feeling. I understand it is not of their specialty, but it does go hand in hand. It wasn’t until I actually went to my doctor about my anxiety coming back that she finally prescribed anxiety medication.

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With that being said, for someone newly diagnosed and in constant pain, I can see how suicide is an option.

In the wake of a couple of suicides in the music world, I have noticed there has been more talk about it in the mass media. It is all over social media, on the news… kinda right in front of your face. A reminder. I advise going to your doctor the first moment you feel that despair. Go to a family member, a friend, a co-worker — anyone who will guide you. Don’t do it alone. Don’t feel like a burden. Your mind might make you feel like you are at your end, but you are stronger than you could ever imagine. Have faith in yourself.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via mirc3a

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The 'Harry Potter' Quote That Gave Me a Reason to Stay

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Recently, I’ve realized something about my suicidal thoughts I think a lot of other people can relate to. I’ve attempted suicide multiple times over the last six years and I think about it every day, but I don’t want to die. Truly, I don’t. 

I fear death more than I fear life. With death, I have no idea what happens, and that terrifies me. But with life, I know there are infinite possibilities for things to get better. If I were to choose death, I would miss out on any future experience — good or bad. And how can we recognize the good things and good people in our lives without having met or been through bad ones? If I choose death, I would miss out on my godson growing up. I wouldn’t get to see my dog grow old and grey. I would miss out on spending time with my mom, dad and grandma. I would lose any chance of meeting someone who potentially could be amazing. I’d have no chance of having a family of my own. I wouldn’t have any chance of experiencing a true moment or moments of happiness. I would never know how it feels to get better. That all sounds to good to pass up.

So when I say I’m suicidal, I don’t mean I want to die. I just want to live each day with a little less pain. Everyone says, “It gets better” or “It could be worse” and while both of those might be very true, the pain I’m going through means something to me and should be taken seriously. I know it’s easier to pick apart the reasons why you want to go, but those reasons to stay — as small, big, silly or serious as they might seem to others — they matter. No matter what your reasons, focus on them. Work for them. If they are important to you, it matters. You matter. You are important. As hard as it may be, you can always find a reason to stay.

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Harry Potter Facebook page.

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Trump, Suicide and the Military: Why Being Transgender Is Not the Problem

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Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

Three weeks ago, Donald Trump announced that transgender citizens would be banned from serving in the military. The announcement got, as Trump would put it, a “huuuge” reaction. The debate over whether transgender people would be good or bad for the military sparked conversations all over social media platforms. Lady Gaga, who is a major LGBTQ advocate, even got involved with a tweet that quickly became a part of that conversation:

Some are arguing that this tweet in itself shows the problem with transgender people in the military, clearly not Lady Gaga’s intention at all. No one who is suicidal is allowed to serve. Mental illness can disqualify you from serving. If nearly half of transgender people aged 18 to 24 have attempted suicide from civilian stressors, what would happen in the depths of combat, under the “real” stress of military situations?

To call all transgender individuals “unstable” or “suicidal” is inaccurate and even stigmatizing. Yes, being transgender is another suicide risk factor, but that doesn’t mean they are all suicidal or incapable of fulfilling military duties. This is a gross oversimplification of suicidality. These types of comments make it seem like transgender communities are too weak even for daily life, so military should be out of the question.

There are numerous factors which go into being suicidal, from mental illnesses (for example, depressive disorders) to traumatic events, from hostile environments to stigmatized sexual orientations. If you are going to attack transgender military members for an increased suicide risk, why not address the suicide risk of being in the military overall? Combat increases the risk of many mental illnesses, from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to anxiety disorders to mood disorders. All of these put individuals at an elevated risk for self-harm and even suicide attempts or suicide completion.

I would love for more attention to be placed on suicide in the military and how to treat their mental illnesses and suicidality, rather than overlook it and pretend it’s not a problem. If suicidal people can’t function in the military, it should be acknowledged that many veterans are suicidal due to the military experience itself. Transgender or not, suicide needs to be addressed, but in appropriate ways without stigmatizing and ignorant language.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

 If you need support right now, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. Or send a text message to 838255.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via nito100

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What We Might Miss When We Blame Suicide Solely on Mental Illness

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I want to start by saying I am a suicide attempt survivor. I also live with bipolar. Sometimes I even suffer from it.

But when I had my attempt I certainly wasn’t blaming my bipolar.

I had recently been discharged from the U.S. Army after a catatonic episode and involuntary hospitalization, and after months of feeling like a failure to my family, suicide seemed like the only way out. Bipolar, in of itself, didn’t cause to me to attempt suicide, though. And I would have been deeply offended if that is all what people talked about. And I believe the same would go for many others who die by suicide. Not everyone, but certainly enough to provide an alternative to the mainstream narrative. My views may not be the most popular, but I’m told repeatedly that people with lived experience need to raise their voice — so here goes.

It really upsets me reading through stories of recently deceased celebrities like Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell and how “mental illness” or a “chemical imbalance” was the actual cause of their deaths. Not enough attention seems to be given to the fact that Chester was sexually abused for six years as a child, and spoke publicly about how abusing drugs such as acid, crack cocaine and methamphetamines was the only way he was able to cope. I believe it lets his abusers off the hook easy when the media can just point to “mental illness” and call it a day. It makes it seem as if the screwed up world we live in doesn’t at all play a part in why people want to die. There’s just so much more depth to these stories and they deserve better.

It doesn’t help when I see my peers furthering this misguided narrative. A few months ago I attended a suicide prevention conference and brought this concern up at a board of directors Q&A. I asked the board why so many advocates in our community place so much emphasis on  mental illness diagnoses and not enough on trauma and societal issues when coming up for reasons why people die by suicide. Not only was my question completely ignored, I was even laughed at by some in the audience. Thankfully, a few members came up to me afterwards to let me know that they agree with me, but that this issue is too politically volatile to be challenged at the moment. But I’m still left wondering why even asking the question is controversial. What’s so wrong with asking questions?

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My hope is that this unbalanced focus on mental illness being the default cause of suicide will eventually ease and we can dive deeper into the roots of why so many people (in increasing numbers) keep taking their lives. Yes, many people who die by suicide were depressed, but is it fair to say the reason was always major depressive disorder? It’s more convenient and easier to sell to the public, but does it really tell the full story? Furthermore, not everyone believes that individuals who experience extreme emotional distress should be labeled as mentally ill, so it can actually drive some people away from reaching out for help because they fear being told their thoughts are “disordered” or “diseased” and end up involuntarily hospitalized as a result. When so many suicides take place inside a psych ward and immediately post-discharge, I think it is fair to raise this concern. Even without the threat of being locked in a psych ward, using these terms and paradigms can be offensive to individuals who choose to view themselves as anything but ill.

I know many suicide prevention advocates who attribute their suicidality to mental illness and I do not challenge their decision to do so at all. We should all have the freedom to use whatever language we feel best describes our own experience. That said, we shouldn’t rush to silence individuals who prefer to use their own language. Of course there may be exceptions, but overall we need to be more open to asking ourselves difficult and even uncomfortable questions in order to reach our collective goal of ending suicide. I hope that is something we can all agree on.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via taehoon bae

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