Musician Robb Nash Gets Signatures From 120 Suicide Notes Tattooed on His Arm

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Robb Nash’s newest tattoo may have a bit more meaning than most.

Last week, Nash, a musician and motivational speaker, had the signatures of 120 young people who were once suicidal inked on his right arm.

After Nash’s band performs at schools, students often present the frontman with suicide notes from their past.

In an interview last Friday, Nash told Manitoba’s CBC News, he’s gotten 523 of these letters. He decided to honor the students by having the names of the first 120 who gave him notes tattooed on his arm.

“Everyday when I meet people that are suicidal, they always say that they feel alone….that no one else feels the same way,” Nash wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”

His post reads:

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!

Nash shares his own story as part of the school presentations. As a teenager, he was involved in a near-fatal collision with a semi-trailer truck, from which he had a difficult recovery and “significant physical and emotional scars.” Though Nash founded a successful band, he felt his suicide prevention work was more important and decided to focus on school performances. He now does over 150 self-harm presentations each year.

Nash hopes that sharing his tattoo online will help further his mission.

“I also hope that people will see these names and realize how many people out there are fighting depression and suicidal thoughts,” Nash wrote. “It is something that has taken the life of too many amazing and talented people.”

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie, show, or song that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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For When Your Only Thought Is Suicide

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It won’t always be like this.

You won’t be permanently stuck in this hell, fighting with your own thoughts and losing. The fact that you’ve just taken that breath proves you’re more than this, you’re more than it. All it wants to do is knock you back over when you just got up, but you don’t have to let it.

You are making progress even though it doesn’t feel like it, and you are showing it  you won’t be beaten. Are you wearing clothes? That means you put them on. Do you have makeup on? You put that on. Are you drinking tea? You made that. You’re respiring, right? Your body is doing that.

In fact, your body is going to continue respiring because that thing in your head isn’t going to stop it.

I don’t know whether my writing is making any sense to you, whether that magnificent mind of yours is processing and listening to it, whether your absence of feeling is developing into a feeling of hope. I can’t force that to happen. All I want you to bear in mind now is that your heart — it beats 115,200+ times a day. Inside your delicate frame and under your paper-thin skin, your body is made up of atoms and particles that all consist in the universe. You are part of the universe. You belong here, alive, on Earth.

Your feet belong on this floor, your intelligence belongs in this existence and your brain holds millions of stories that deserve to be told.

I know you’re hurting, and I know you may even like that feeling, but you don’t need that feeling. You’re better off without it, trust me. I know you avoid doing things because you know they’re going to bring a lot of anxiety, but you don’t need to avoid doing those things, trust me. I know may you find it hard to cry because there is nothing there, but there will be something there eventually, trust me. I know every inch of thought being processed in your head is about how much you don’t want to be here, but that thought won’t last forever. This won’t be forever. Trust me.

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I wrote this to myself when I was in a dark place with my depression. Some days are still dark, but I’m slowly learning this too shall pass, that brighter are days ahead. I’ve met some wonderful, courageous people throughout my ongoing battle with mental illness, and they inspire me to keep going every single day. They remind me that no matter how awful things are, there is always a way out and there is no shame in me taking medication to help with my recovery.

Just keep going.

Follow this journey on Catharsis.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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To My Friend in 8th Grade Who Gave My Suicide Note to the School Counselor

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Do you remember us in eighth grade? We had ridiculous crushes on boys, got into stupid fights with other girls and went to football games because it was the cool thing to do. We spent our time in class passing notes and trying not to get caught. One day, I found you in the hallway and gave you a note that was much, much different than the others.

I had written it the night before with tears in my eyes and incredibly shaky hands. I’d wanted to write it for quite awhile, but never thought I actually would. But things had gotten really bad for me at home and at school. And you knew that already because I always confided in you. But even though you knew what was going on in my life, you didn’t know what was going on inside my head.

At the beginning of my note, I made sure to thank you for always being there for me and to thank you for being my friend. But what started as a thank-you note turned into a suicide note. I know you were as scared when you read it as I was when I wrote it. I handed it to you in the hallway, planning for that to be the last time I saw you. But what you did next changed the outcome I was then hoping for.

After reading it, you did the thing that ultimately saved me. You took the note and your worried heart to the school counselor and told him how scared you were for me. He listened intently to you and then acted the way he was obligated to do. He called my parents and then summoned me to his office.

I was angry with you at first. I felt like you had broken my trust and betrayed our bond, but as I grew up, and as we grew apart, I realized you saved me. You saved me and did it because you loved and cared for me. I will always appreciate what you did.

And I wanted to thank you now for caring enough to save me then. You were a true friend, and I’m glad it was you that I told.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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A Suicidal Pastor's Wife on Easter Sunday

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One year on Easter Sunday, I was feeling suicidal. My husband, who is a pastor, left before dawn to superintend the sunrise service, as he always does. I woke hours later to wrangle our four children into whatever Easter best we’d patched together from hand-me-downs and Value Village, as I always do. My mom was in town, so that helped, and we made it to church without more than the usual yelling for lost shoes. 

After church we gathered for a family photo, since the fancy clothes thing doesn’t happen often. Then my mom and my husband took the kids off in the minivan to an Easter egg hunt at a church member’s house, while I went home alone in our ancient sedan to put the ham in the oven. 

It was on the drive home that the thoughts attacked. Three or four plausible and immediate scenarios for ending my own life careened into my brain. Each one illuminated itself in horror-movie detail, a kamikaze film sequence that felt strangely seductive while at the same time producing angst-ridden guilt: I’m a terrible, terrible mother! 

Having bipolar disorder puts me at a clear and frightening increased risk of suicide. So does my history of childhood sexual abuse. Given those risks, though: why those particular thoughts, on that particular day? From late winter into early spring, a glum blue haze had settled over me, but I’d held up my end of the medication-and-counseling bargain, and I thought I was doing OK.

The intensity of my thoughts both surprised and scared me. I gripped the steering wheel and promised myself I wasn’t going to act on them. I hoped the part of me doing the promising was the trustworthy part. 

I managed to push my thoughts aside long enough to make my way home and start the ham on schedule. I felt shaky, uncertain of myself. I paced and trembled, trying to settle myself enough to do the dishes or something useful until everyone else arrived. When they finally did, I was thankful they’d come home to an undead mother. 

It took me a while to decide to go public with my brush with suicide. But recently, I’ve come to know two of my friends have also wrestled with suicidal feelings in the past year. Their struggles, like mine, have been silent and invisible. Public opinion pushes the dreadful weight of suicidal feelings even further underground. No one wants to admit to even thinking about something that everyone knows is “selfish” and “unforgivable.”

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Especially when you are a mother. “How could you?” echoes in our ears, a haunting refrain that may only keep us from getting the help we need. And so, I share my story in solidarity with my friends and with all those who bear this burdensome secret.

Please hear me: suicide is a terrible choice, and I do not want to condone or encourage it in any way. But just because we’ve thought those thoughts doesn’t mean we are selfish or unforgivable or awful mothers. It means this: we are vulnerable. We need healing. We need compassion, both from ourselves and from those around us.

Each year on Easter, we festoon our sanctuaries with lilies, sing triumphantly of the risen King, and declare our intention to live as Easter people. Yet we still live in a world where, somewhere, someone – pastor’s wife or back-pew visitor – will drive home after all that and think about making an end of things. We live, truly, with the now and the not yet: the world as it is, and the hope of the world as it should be.

Sometimes at night, when I can’t sleep, I invite the Broken Man to come inhabit my body with his own. From tip to toe, I imagine Jesus who died and whose resurrection we celebrate each Easter crawling gently inside me, at once filling me with his presence and absorbing all of my troubles into his own understanding. It helps.

I don’t have all the answers, about suicide or anything else. I can say that life on this planet, from where I’m sitting, is scary sometimes. But I still believe in the One who came to walk among us. In his death and resurrection, I still look forward to the redemption of all things, my own life included, by the grace of God.

And next Easter, I plan to still be around to sing about it.

Follow this journey on Sarah L. Sanderson.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Talking About Suicide Is What Saves Me

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A few months after I came back from my second trip to Iraq as a journalist in 2003, I went out in my mom’s closed garage around 2 a.m., started her old Camry, rolled the windows down and waited to die.

The filth and the sadness of the war rolled in with the exhaust. The adolescent girl who’d solicited me outside the national press center in Baghdad. The Army Ranger complaining he hadn’t yet found an opportunity to stab an Iraqi. The bombs and the heat and the hopelessness that settles on everything like dust and filth. The twisted and broken people streaming past by the thousands, and the broken and twisted people who made them that way. My alcoholic father, holding me — at age 8, too weak from strep throat to ask him to stop shaking me — by the hair of the head at arm’s length, punching me in the face. I’d woken him up, coughing.

So I sat there in the exhaust, in the dark garage while memories of my father, the Iraq War and (so it seemed) all the pain of all the slights, and the failures, and self-judgments and hopelessness poured over me. Even though I hadn’t written a note, I prayed my family and friends would understand.

I know many of you have been in the same place. Have just had it. Cannot face another minute, much less another day of it.

I know this partly because I volunteer now at Lines for Life, an affiliate of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where I also work as a consultant part-time. I spend a lot of my time talking with people about death. Or the desire to die.

But I’ve never talked openly about my own suicide attempt, or admitted self-harm, alcoholism, drug abuse and violence run deep in my family. I think it’s time to come clean, and to connect with people in the way I ask them to connect with me, by talking honestly about pain.

When I was sitting in my mother’s car, waiting to die, I imagined how my family would find me, and the shock and grief that would come with it. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. The angrier I got, the more I woke up — until I gave up on ever falling asleep, permanently, turned the ignition off and went back inside, royally pissed off, still sad and frustrated, but alive.

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Guilt saved me then, but what saves me now is talking with people about suicide, trauma and grief. About a year ago a group of friends decided to have a kind of sit-in and talk with me about my depression. One of them suggested I volunteer on a crisis line. It was probably the best advice — the kind of advice that’s also a life preserver — I’ve ever been given.

Over the past year I’ve spent about 230 hours talking with people in crisis. I’d say every single person I’ve spoken with in severe emotional pain believed herself to be utterly alone, the same as I felt, those many years ago. That no one, the earth over, could understand what it means to hurt so badly you wish you were dead.

In the few times I’ve talked with callers about my own suicide attempt, they’ve usually responded first with surprise, then with curiosity. I can hear the relief in their voice.

They want to know what worked. How, in that utterly hopeless place, do you crawl out, stand up and go on? Because the fact is we are all — I believe — desperate to live. The problem is that some of us are also desperate to find a way out of suffering. And so we talk about how to protect ourselves, and how to stay safe.

I’d argue that talking about pain is a kind of rebirth. We reenter the world not as a facsimile of who we’d like to be, or who we think our family and friends would like us to be — as a kind of projection of a fantasized, imagined self — but as our pained selves. Our blood-and-bones selves. Our raw, vulnerable, dependent selves. And when we find someone who can accept that — like people on Lifeline accept it, and in fact want to hear it, because that’s where we truly connect — we find a reason to try again tomorrow.

Every time I talk with someone in crisis, or a read a story about someone facing pain, I feel less cut off, less alone, a little braver and stronger. The things (the true things) I used to avoid, are now some of the things that sustain me.

So, what I’m really trying to say is keep talking. Keep writing, and keep saying exactly who you are and why you are as you are. People need it. If you can find the courage to do that, you’re not burdening someone, or causing pain. You’re helping the other person see and feel what it means to live in the real world, facing pain, yes, but not facing it alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Parenting a 'High-Functioning' Depressed Teen

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My son is amazing. He’s funny, and tall, and charming and polite. He’s been on the honor roll since middle school. He runs cross country and track; he transitioned from a small charter school where he had 18 kids in his eighth-grade class to a high school of 2000 students.

One day he felt sick, so we let him stay home. I was at work when I got a phone call from the school. Where was my son? “He’s at home,” I tell them.

They called because a friend of his had shown the guidance counselor text messages. His friend was concerned he had hurt himself and that’s why he wasn’t in school.

I called my son, “What is going on?”

He said he didn’t want to “stress me out.”

I have a policy with my kids — I tell them (pretty much) everything. I was, at that time, working full time and in graduate school. I was stressed out; I told them that.

My son didn’t tell me he was having suicidal thoughts because he didn’t want to stress me out.

I don’t know if I handled that conversation well. This parenting thing doesn’t come with a manual.

My son had issues with his mental health before, several years earlier, so we were able to get him back in with his regular counselor, and he is doing well, better than he was.

I was a lot like him when I was younger. I always had good grades, I didn’t act out in ways that anyone would really notice, but I was a depressed kid who grew up to be a depressed adult. This isn’t my first experience with mental health, but it is my first experience as the parent in this situation.

I thought talking to my kids all the time about mental health, addiction, things going on in my life and things going on in theirs would make it easier for them to come to me when they had something going on, when they felt like something was going sideways. It didn’t work out. My son, wanting to protect me and my feelings withheld that he was suffering, and even though I have a lot of personal experience with mental illness, I had no idea what he was hiding.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

My first message is for the parents out there: If your kids tell you they are feeling sad/depressed/anxious, please believe them and get them help. If your kids’ friends tell you they are sending weird messages, ask your kid about it. As much as you think you know your kid, they aren’t going to tell you everything.

My second message is for the kids: Please talk to your parents. Even if you think it will stress them out or make them cry (they might!), you are more important to them than anything else. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it’s a brave thing to do. And if your friends show some of your texts to your parents, don’t get mad at them. They are trying to help. That is love.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

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