After near-death experience, Manitoba musician sings his story of mental health
Published Thursday, January 26, 2017 10:04PM EST
Like many musicians, Robb Nash’s arms are covered in tattoos. But the words on his skin aren’t lyrics or quotes -- they’re the names of young people who were so touched by his songs about mental health that they handed him their discarded suicide notes as gestures of perseverance.
“They’re still here and they’re conquering the world around them,” Nash told CTV News.
Nash’s struggle with mental health began at the age of 17, when a car crash on a Manitoba highway shattered his skull. The injuries were so severe that Nash was initially pronounced dead on the road. He was resuscitated and eventually recovered, but the lingering pain and trauma from the accident manifested as suicidal thoughts.
“All of a sudden I started hearing voices inside my head every night. It terrified me. I started hearing, ‘You’re useless now. There’s no reason for you. You’re useless.’ And I didn’t want to be alive. Not like that.”
In the aftermath of the crash, Nash decided he would call the other driver involved in the accident and tell him that he survived. He said the conversation was illuminating for both of them.
“We talked and he was set free. And it wasn’t so much what it did for him, but how it felt to do that for somebody else,” Nash said.
“And I thought, I want to tell my story to other young people so they don’t have to die like I did, before they started to live.”
And that’s precisely what he did. Nash decided to start a band with other musicians who had overcome addiction, depression or suicidal thoughts. They called themselves The Robb Nash Project.
In eight years, the bandmates have shared their stories to more than a million young people across Canada through their music. At every show, Nash invites youth who have struggled with suicidal thoughts to hand him their past suicide notes as a gesture of strength. He decided to tattoo more than 100 of those names on his arms.
Fans say that the powerful shows have made an impact in their lives.
“It’s okay to have mental health challenges. It’s really important just to talk. And that’s the first step,” said 17-year-old Garrett Kurbis.
Nash’s story comes on the heels of Bell Let’s Talk Day, which raised more than $6.5 million dollars for mental health aid, research and outreach on Jan. 25.
With files from CTV’s Jill Macyshon