Robb Nash de­liv­ers poignant mes­sage to teens

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Robb Nash had his own lifechang­ing mo­ment and is now tak­ing ex­traor­di­nary steps to make sure youth do not feel alone while fac­ing their own chal­lenges.

And he has 851 sui­cide notes from youth across Canada to prove it.

The Robb Nash Project was in Swift Current on April 17 and 18 for a pair of emo­tional pre­sen­ta­tions on topics rang­ing from ad­dic­tions to men­tal health and sui­cide. A to­tal of just over 800 stu­dents from across the South­west heard his mix of hope­ful mes­sages and rock songs.

Nash sur­vived a car ac­ci­dent as a teen when the ve­hi­cle he was trav­el­ling in struck a semi-truck. The im­pact broke his skull and has re­sulted in a se­ries of surg­eries over the en­sur­ing years. He went through a pe­riod of bit­ter­ness and anger, and at one time con­tem­plated tak­ing his own life. But after mak­ing it through that dark pe­riod, Nash went onto a suc­cess­ful mu­sic ca­reer be­fore tear­ing up his mu­sic con­tract to em­bark on a ca­reer as a mo­ti­va­tional youth speaker.

“The current stats in Canada: one in five teenagers has se­ri­ously con­sid­ered sui­cide in the last 12 months,” Nash pointed out dur­ing an interview dur­ing his tour open­ing stop last Wed­nes­day.

He re­called early in his ca­reer be­ing in­vited to per­form at a school after one stu­dent died by sui­cide, and in their note they wrote they had made a pact with a friend.

“And I’m think­ing ‘some­body sit­ting in front of me is about to take their life. Where are they sit­ting?’ And that was the first time I ever shared that I was there my­self. And I hid it. What are the kids going to think of me? What are the staff going to think of me? So I spoke and said ‘look you’re not alone. I was there once too.’ And I opened up for the first time be­cause you’re so nervous about this stuff. And I opened up and that’s when this girl came for­ward.”

Know­ing that one in five teenagers has con­sid­ered sui­cide in the past year, he con­tin­ued to share the story of his strug­gles, and more and more teens start­ing to open up about their own is­sues.

“Peo­ple are car­ry­ing their notes with them. That’s why we got the 851 sui­cide notes,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have be­lieved it be­fore the tour started, but after talk­ing to hun­dreds of thou­sands of stu­dents on this tour, this is con­sis­tent.”

“You heard me talk to­day, I know some­one here is think­ing about it. You’re not alone. And it’s bru­tal.”

“What’s re­mark­able is, if your heart starts to fail you, the whole community comes rush­ing to help, mak­ing you meals and they’re there for sup­port. If your brain starts to fail you, every­body bails and runs the other way.”

He noted that younger chil­dren are be­ing im­pacted by bul­ly­ing and other harm­ful re­al­i­ties, and re­cently in Canada an eight year old stu­dent died by sui­cide.

“That’s shouldn’t be an op­tion at eight years old, but it is. So we need to ad­dress this stuff. And if you think you shouldn’t talk about it be­cause you don’t want to dis­turb this stuff, no. There’s a rea­son we’ve won these awards. We take this stuff very se­ri­ously. We work very closely with the schools pre­par­ing for to­day. We know our role. We’re not try­ing to be the coun­cil­lors, we’re here to get the con­ver­sa­tion started.”

“That’s the be­gin­ning. You can have all the re­sources in the world, all of the coun­cil­lors in the world, so­cial work­ers, what­ever. But if kids aren’t will­ing to share their story, you’re not going any­where. Those re­sources are use­less.”

Nash shared that it re­mains dif­fi­cult to speak about his own story, but he knows get­ting kids to open up with their own sto­ries is important.

“I hate get­ting in front of strangers ev­ery day and shar­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble mo­ments of my life. It’s hard.”

“They’re look­ing at me think­ing ‘this guy’s been through some­thing tough. So have I. He’s talk­ing about it and he got help. Maybe so should I.’”

He pointed out that some break­throughs were made even dur­ing his time in Swift Current.

“It’s building that re­siliency. It’s choos­ing,” he said of his mes­sage.

“I’m not here to say your life is going to be fluffy be­cause I sang for you. Life is full of pain. But as I taught them to­day, you have to choose ev­ery day. If you wake up in the morn­ing look­ing for pain you’re going to find it. But if you get up in the morn­ing look­ing for strength, hope and help, that’s out there too. That’s a daily choice.”

“We have break­through mo­ments - break­through mo­ments where you know where you were sit­ting when some­thing clicked. And I believe in that so much… that’s why I chose mu­sic. Why not feed them some­thing that’s ac­tu­ally going to help them through their tough days.”

Nash pointed out that his orig­i­nal plan was to tour for nine months and share his story, but nine years later he is still going strong.

He has the names of 120 youth who handed him their sui­cide notes tat­tooed on his arm as a very real re­minder that some stu­dents are strug­gling, but that mak­ing pos­i­tive life choices and over­com­ing their chal­lenges is pos­si­ble.

“It used to over­whelm me. To­day, I can see the faces of the kids and I see the tears. And I used to think I was seeing tears of some­body break­ing down, but these are tears of some­body break­ing through. Having a break­through mo­ment and I get to be a part of that.”

SCOTT AN­DER­SON/SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

The Robb Nash Project de­liv­ered a pow­er­ful mes­sage of hope to strug­gling teens along with shar­ing a number of inspiring songs dur­ing a pair of pre­sen­ta­tions in Swift Current last week.

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