Robb Nash delivers poignant message to teens
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.”
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.