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Logan Paul Said He'd Donate $1M to Suicide Prevention. We Looked Into It. Here's What We Found.

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Known for his frat-boy humor and stunts you should never try at home, Logan Paul quickly cemented himself among YouTube’s elite in 2017. It was from this spot at the pinnacle of influencer fame that things came crashing down for Paul when he chose to film a man who died by suicide in the Aokigarhara forest in Japan and post the video on YouTube for his nearly 20 million subscribers.

The fallout was swift, and in an effort to rehabilitate his career, Paul pledged $1 million to suicide prevention charities without any timeline. He started immediately with a $250,000 donation to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. As the news cycle shifted, so did, it seemed, attention to the controversy. But Paul hasn’t forgotten.

On Nov. 2, Paul posted a nearly 40-minute documentary titled “The Maverick” on YouTube chronicling his boxing journey. Paul used the backlash he faced from the mental health community after posting the suicide video as the hook for his redemption narrative in the film.

He monetized “The Maverick” on YouTube. Though it’s difficult to tell exactly how much money he earns from the documentary specifically, as of 2018, Paul makes an estimated $11,688 per minute of YouTube video, according to Business Insider.

So, almost two years later, what happened to Paul’s $1 million commitment to the mental health community? The Mighty looked into it and found he donated an additional $68,000 in 2018 since the $250,000 donation he made on Jan. 24, 2018.

How Logan Paul Hurt the Mental Health Community

YouTube took no immediate action when Paul posted a video showing a man who died by suicide on Dec. 31, 2017, but Paul pulled the video himself within a day and issued a written apology followed by a video apology on YouTube three days later.

He clarified that the initial video, which he did not monetize, was meant as a suicide prevention tool, though advocates were quick to point out Paul’s video did not follow best practices for covering suicide, was disrespectful to the person who died and, as a result, could harm viewers who were already struggling.

“Depression and other mental illnesses are not a joke nor should they ever be the subject of something like this,” tweeted Cates Holderness at the time. “I’m mad and sad for the person and their family.”

“I should have never posted the video, I should have put the cameras down,” Paul said in his apology video. “I’ve made a huge mistake, I don’t expect to be forgiven.”

Logan Paul’s Commitment to Suicide Prevention

Paul took a break from YouTube for three weeks before coming back with a suicide prevention video that featured conversations with Alo House Recovery Centers co-founder Bob Forrest, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Director Dr. John Draper and suicide attempt survivor Kevin Hines. In the PSA, titled “Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow,” Paul also pledged to donate $1 million to suicide prevention efforts.

“From this point on I want to make an effort to contribute and immerse myself in the conversation,” Paul says in the video. “So I’m pledging to donate 1 million dollars to various suicide prevention organizations with the first $250,000 going immediately to the National Suicide Prevention lifeline, so they can increase their capacity to help those in need.”

Initial reactions to Paul’s suicide prevention efforts were mixed. Filmmaker Ant Timpson called Paul out for making the PSA all about him as opposed to focusing on the mental health community. Actor Jimmy Wong called Paul’s video a “deliberately manipulative piece of content from your PR machine” and challenged him to follow through on the promises he made in the video.

“I pray and hope you realize that this video is only the first step in a very long journey in responsibility and maturity, and that this journey is one that you are very unfamiliar with,” Wong tweeted. “We’re all watching and waiting to see what you do next. Please give us reason to believe.”

What Happened to the Money?

Paul’s combined revenue from YouTube, his brand Maverick and other business endeavors landed him on Forbes’ Highest-Paid YouTube Stars list for 2018, earning $14.5 million. This figure includes six months of income in 2017 before Paul posted the suicide video, the fallout of which cost him an estimated $5 million. Annual figures for 2019 aren’t available yet. During a July interview, however, he seemed to suggest to Fox Business he was concerned about his finances.

“My expenses just surpassed my income for the first time ever,” he told reporter Liz Claman. “I just sat with my financial manager and he told me that. I’m definitely going downhill from here.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, however, Paul bought Timothy Leary’s famous 80-acre ranch (of LSD and 1960s brotherly love fame) in the San Jacinto Mountains in California for $1 million in November 2019. This is his second home. He also owns a mansion in Encino, California, which he bought for $6.55 million in 2017.

Despite reports Paul continues to prosper financially in the two years since the backlash from posting the suicide video, it was unclear where — if at all — Paul was donating the rest of the $1 million he committed to charity. But he does have a plan. When reached by The Mighty, Paul’s manager Jeffrey Levin said Paul donated $318,000 of his $1 million commitment so far.

After his initial $250,000 donation to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Levin told The Mighty Paul also donated $60,000 to the Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation for its Courage Normalize Question Recovery (CNQR) initiative on Dec. 18, 2018, and $8,000 to the organization Think Kindness on Sept. 18, 2018, a nonprofit that aims to foster kindness among kids in schools. The Mighty reached out to the Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation and Think Kindness to confirm Paul’s donations and has yet to hear back.

Levin also said Paul plans to donate another $50,000 to $75,000 to suicide prevention before the end of 2019, “which will be split between the various foundations,” Levin said. The rest of Paul’s $1 million commitment will be donated over the course of 10 years. Levin told The Mighty via email:

Logan remains committed to making these large annual donations to fully vetted organizations that support mental health and wellness in a meaningful way, over the course of 10 years so that The Kevin Hines Foundation, and those dependent upon outside support, can rely on his annual pledge to keep the organization funded for longer periods of time. While $1,000,000 was the commitment, this number will be exceeded over time.

The Impact of His Suicide Prevention Efforts

Paul’s efforts so far have made an impact. His $250,000 donation to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for example, ensured more callers in need of support connected with empathetic listeners and resources. The Lifeline said in a 2018 statement after Paul’s initial donation:

In 2017, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline answered over 2 million calls from people needing support across the United States, a record-setting number. With more people reaching out to the Lifeline, donations help us strengthen our growing infrastructure, support local crisis centers, and provide support for the counselors answering Lifeline calls. We appreciate Logan Paul’s generous donation to help support this lifesaving resource.

“Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow” also opened the eyes of some of his followers who didn’t know much about suicide or mental health before the controversy. And despite his detractors, others responded positively to Paul’s commitment to make it right.

“Logan Paul using his platform for genuine good,” tweeted YouTuber Reev. “Yeah it was always going to be the only intelligent way to return but he’s actually genuinely added a lot of good to the world. Whether you like him or not, that video will save lives.”

What’s Next for Logan Paul?

Since his suicide prevention PSA, Paul has worked to rebrand his image in other ways. One was the Challenger Games, a track-and-field competition among Paul and other YouTubers that raised money for Special Olympics. His biggest endeavor is his new boxing career, sparked by a challenge from fellow YouTuber KSI (Olajide Olayinka).

When KSI and Paul first got in the ring in 2018, they sold tickets to 20,000 fans to watch live in the London arena and charged thousands more about $10 each to livestream the match online. The resulting “YouTube World Boxing Championship” ended in a draw and a promise of a rematch. It brought in an estimated $11 million in viewership revenue, according to Business Insider. Their boxing rematch on Nov. 9 sold out the 20,000-seat Staples Center in Los Angeles and was predicted to also bring in millions in revenue for both parties.

In “The Maverick,” Paul outlined how getting to that point in the arena was a journey. Paul doesn’t call it out as a mental health struggle, but his friend George Janko says in the film Paul was so “low” he may have experienced suicidal thoughts. “The Maverick” includes previously unreleased footage where Paul tells the camera:

I am fucking struggling right now.

I’m just in a fucking, I’m in a rough spot, man.

In more recent interviews, Paul said he’s had time to reflect on his choices and make some changes. This included a move away from regular vlogging on YouTube, starting a podcast and focusing on boxing. Ahead of his Nov. 9 rematch with KSI, Paul told Iron Generation he doesn’t even recognize the 2017 version of himself.

“I hate the 2017 version of Logan Paul,” he said. “I watched him now as a 24-year-old who’s had time to ruminate on his decisions and it sickens me that somehow that’s the course that I felt was appropriate in my life.”

Yet however he frames it in “The Maverick,” Paul’s work to right his wrongs with the mental health community is not finished yet. While investigating this story, The Mighty reached out to major suicide prevention organizations in the United States and Japan. TELL, an English- and Japanese-language nonprofit dedicated to the mental health of Japan’s international community through a lifeline and other supports, said Paul never returned their efforts to contact him.

“TELL personally reached out to Logan Paul on several occasions but we never received a reply or any donations,” a TELL spokesperson told The Mighty via email, adding:

All the videos and stories publicizing Aokigarhara only continue to go against the WHO safety guidelines when discussing suicide and place vulnerable individuals at risk and cost lives. The majority of people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts are depressed and getting the message out that there is hope, treatment, and recovery is what these individuals desperately need to hear. Hopefully, we can create a safe respectful society where we start to see mental illness the same as any other physical illness. It is only society that is making these distinctions and it is costing nearly a million lives a year, and increasingly young lives.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/Erik Drost

Originally published: December 6, 2019
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