Musician's Tattoo Honors Countless Teens He's Helped Save From Suicide

Robb Nash

I learned a long time ago that oftentimes people are going through much more than their smile may ever truly reveal -- that behind every smile, there's a story that we don't know. After battling with thoughts of suicide in previous years, Canadian musician Robb Nash began to share his secret story, as chronicled in the Washington Post's Inspired Lives series, with teenagers facing this battle alone.


When he and his band Live On Arrival initially began touring schools and detention centers several years ago, it was simply to share through his music and his journey of overcoming adversity. However, a school principal urgently requested that he speak specifically on the matter of suicide after the loss of one student to a "suicide pact" -- as the principal did not know who the other student in that pact might be.

More from CafeMom: Children of Suicide Are More Likely to Kill Themselves

He proceeded to acknowledge those students who may be having thoughts of suicide by simply reminding them, "You're not alone." This was a head space that Nash, too, once lived in, during a bleak period in his life where he "had a lot of dark thoughts" and "didn't want to be alive." After hearing him speak, a young girl allegedly handed Nash her suicide note that she had intended to leave for her family the following weekend.

Soon after, he realized that there'd be one kid at every school hoping, needing, and wanting to confide in someone. Fortunately, that someone came to be him -- leading him to bring the discussion of suicide to the forefront of his tours.

In Canada, where Nash is currently touring, suicide is the second leading cause of death among children ranging from ages 10 to 24. Meanwhile, in 2013, 17 percent of students in the US in grades 9 to 12 seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months, with 13.6 percent of students actually planning their suicide over the course of a year. So while this is an issue that silently plagues many, it's no secret that it's an issue that needs to be addressed and done so in a delicate yet active manner.

And if Nash's testament ever only saved one of those lives that feels so lost -- that feels that this is the only way to overcome sorrow -- then Nash has already done more than society could ever repay him for.

Over time, Nash has come to collect hundreds of suicide notes (and sometimes razors used to self harm) from students who have been impacted by his words and decided that whatever they're going through is something they can live with. Something they can survive. 

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In fact, earlier this month Nash honored 120 students for their courage and will to overcome with a tattoo sleeve on his right arm depicting each of their signatures. 

For years I have been blown away as people have gotten tattoos with my lyrics on them. After thinking about this for a long time, I decided to get the signatures from the first 120 suicide notes given to me tattooed on my arm. (They are as much a part of my life, as I am of theirs.) Everyday when I meet people that are suicidal, they always say that they feel alone....that no one else feels the same way. My hope is that in those moments, I can show them my arm, so they can see the names of tons of other people that once felt the same way and found the strength to get help and keep moving. This is not something I plan to continue doing, so no one will be motivated to give me a note, in hopes of getting their names on my arms. This was just the first names. And I also hope that people will see these names and realize how many people out there are fighting depression and suicidal thoughts. It is something that has taken the life of too many amazing and talented people. It was also cool to see CTV, CBC and the Free Press show up to share this story. I hope many are inspired!

A photo posted by Robb Nash (@robbnash) on

As the Post wrote, Nash can now show students his arms and say, "Look, here are 120 kids who have those thoughts just like you and they're still here. Your life isn't over. There is still a purpose for your life." Those will be the words that will continue to uplift others through his own story, while speaking life back into the lost.

While there's no known formula explaining why children and teens are more apt to see things differently coming from idols, it seems to be working for the teens who confide in Nash with their cry for help, and that's all any of us can ask for. According to his site, "The Robb Nash Project is a message of strength and hope at a time when many youth need it most." 

And by sharing the videos and stories -- his own story and those of other children who have lived to share theirs -- Robb is making the message he told the Post clearer than ever: 

There is someone out there who needs your story. You are going to meet a kid someday going through the same thing and you're going to recognize it and you get to be that kid's hero.

This is quite exemplary of the phrase "it takes a village." While opening the door to discuss mental illness, depression, and thoughts of suicide is something each parent should do, it's also important that it come from other sources in a child's life, whether those be teachers or role models. 

More from CafeMom: 6 Resources for Depressed Teens That Every Parent Should Know About

So, for every child that Nash pays it forward to, I look forward to the day where they in turn pay it forward, and so on -- there's so much power in paying it forward. There's power in sharing your struggles. There's a life to be saved in doing so.  

In the same way that one life taken is one too many, one life saved is just as impactful -- and Nash is making that difference one auditorium at a time with his band Live On Arrival.

If your teen or someone you know has expressed suicidal thoughts, please let them know they are not alone. Text START to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at www.sprc.orgThe Trevor Project has crisis intervention and support for any LGBTQ teens who need to talk.

Image via Robb Nash/Facebook

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