The Robb Nash Project is declaring war on mental illness. Though it’s a silent enemy, it’s time to unite and fight back, before we lose more of our most gifted people - Robb Nash.
The former-Kleefeld resident, Robb Nash says, the inspiration for this album came from students from across Canada. He saw the cry from teens who needed to know that someone was on their side, to fight the battle against suicide together.
He explains what happens during their concert. "I tell the students of my own struggle with mental health. I was in a car crash at, age 17, and nearly died. The crash shattered my skull, and I was initially pronounced dead, but I was resuscitated and eventually recovered, but because of the trauma and lingering pain from the accident, I've suffered from suicidal thoughts for many years."
After having a breakthrough in his own life, he found music and started a band. Then 11 years ago, he decided to tell his story to his fans, including giving concert-goers the opportunity to bring their suicide notes to him as a sign of strength. He was overwhelmed by the stories these kids told him.
Nash then decided to get those students’ names tattooed on his arms. He says, there are names from over 900 suicide notes he's received.
The Robb Nash Project was on tour across Canada when covid came along and the downtime got them thinking that it was time to broaden their battlefield and so they decided to turn the stories of the kids who handed in their suicide notes into a documentary, with a curriculum to go along with it.
Prior to the pandemic, they were performing in big arenas. Nash recalls their last show before the ‘shut-down’ was in Medicine Hat. The band was told 40 schools had flown in kids from Alberta reserves, all through charity. Nash says that was a very meaningful event, but it also showed the desperation of the teachers and staff to help the students.
Nash recalls saying to his team, “I think it's time that we shared the stories we've collected for years. I haven't told the kids’ stories on stage because I've always tried to keep them (the kids' stories) out of the public a bit because I never wanted the students to think that what I doing was a publicity stunt. But I'm like, maybe it's time to tell these stories.”
So, Nash hired a small film crew he’d worked with before and asked them if they would help share the kids' stories, “These kids that gave us suicide notes, let's go find out where they are now. And they said, ‘Let's do it!’ So we sold our tour bus, and we used that money to shoot this documentary. It was just so moving. Then they were also like, ‘Robb, we’ve got to tell your story too.’ I said, ‘Fine.’ So we went back to Kleefeld to the house I grew up in. The church I went to. We had kid actors playing me, which was my cousin's kid, funny enough. It was quite the rush. Then they recreated my accident scene, with the same vehicle. Metal Master actually found the exact vehicle and recreated this scene. Two days before we shot my part, my dad passed away, so it brought something really emotional and raw out of me. But yeah, the documentary is all done and we’re so excited for people to see it.”
Then Nash realized that they would be able to impact more than one school at a time if they would go one step further and create a curriculum to follow along with the document. Nash explains the process, “I put together a team of psychologists, social workers, and counsellors and asked them to take each episode of these kids and turn this into a curriculum. So, we beta-tested this in four provinces and the response was amazing. This spring the curriculum went across Canada and it will be in more schools this next year as well.”
The curriculum consists of students watching Nash tell his story, then they watch a music video and then they journal what they saw, felt and learnt. The journals come with the curriculum and ask questions like, “What was his breakthrough? How did he get help and how is he helping other people?” Nash continues, “Then they watched the story of one of the kids that had a breakthrough from one of our concerts, and follow the same process. They journal about that person's story. Then after four episodes, they're asked, “What's your struggle? Where could you find a breakthrough? How could you get help? How could you help other people?” And yeah, kids are pouring their hearts into these journals and the response from the students and staff has been incredible.”
“And the cool thing is before we could only be in one place at a time, but now, kids in schools in Victoria can be going through the curriculum, at the same time as kids in New Brunswick," Nash says the curriculum is free for parents, teachers and counsellors. The Robb Nash Project will also line up additional mental health support for schools using the curriculum if needed.
Nash says, “The last two years have been hell on people’s mental health, especially young people. We get called to so many 911 calls and we just want this to be available. It costs us a lot to put it together, but we just want to help as many people as possible. People need to see that not every story of mental health ends in suicide and that we can learn from tragedy. But we have to show that there's a balance. Not every story of addiction ends with an overdose. Again, we can learn from tragedy without question. But both those stories in this curriculum, and the documentary is full of stories with people having breakthroughs.”
Nash recalls a concert they performed at a couple of years ago, for all of the Addictions Foundations in Alberta. “This guy walks up to me and he goes “Dude, I've been in prison for 11 years” and he goes “Your song, ‘Hello, Goodbye’ helped me through my darkest times in prison. And I just want to thank you.” He goes “Now I'm out of prison. I'm making music videos.” Nash has since hired Frenzy to do all of their music videos. Nash says,” He’s an incredible guy. A person that a lot of people would have given up on and again another moment where you find out we're losing some of those gifted people to bad circumstances.”
The Robb Nash Project is made up of three musicians, including Nash. They have been performing before more than 500,000 people - mostly students from across the country for the past 11 years. They have also performed in maximum security prisons and given keynote speeches for the Psychiatric Association of Canada. Nash also works closely with Kids Help Phone, the Canadian Mental Health Association and school counsellors to ensure students get the follow-up they need.
The band released their latest "This is War" back on June 20, 2022.