57 Gordon Bell students vow to stop cutting themselves
Winnipeg musician Robb Nash encouraged students to stop self-harm as part of ongoing cross-country tour
Fifty-seven students from Gordon Bell High School exposed their self-inflicted scars to Winnipeg musician Robb Nash and made a vow to stop cutting themselves on Monday. Most of the students gave Nash the razor blades they used to cut themselves. Some even gave him their suicide notes.
The Robb Nash Project performed at the school as part of an ongoing country-wide tour that touches on topics such as drunk driving, addictions, suicide, self-harm and bullying.
The band was invited to kick off Pink Shirt Day at the school, which takes place Tuesday. On that day, thousands of people wear pink T-shirts to call for an end to bullying.
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Nash said he receives suicide notes and razor blades after almost every performance but 57 students at once is a big number.
"That was a lot of kids, I'm not going to lie. But this isn't about Gordon Bell," he said. "The issues are so consistent from school to school, city to city, province to province."
More than 400 students from Grades 7 to 12 attended the performance, a spokesperson for the school said.
The band's set consists of songs, videos and stories. At one part of the show, Nash talked about suicide then played a song. During the song, a video played showing kids ripping up their suicide notes, handing Nash their razor blades and saying, "This is my last mark."
After the performance, the 57 students approached Nash and vowed to stop harming themselves. He signed their arms and wrote "This is my last mark" over their scars.
At all of his shows, Nash works closely with the schools after the performance to make sure students receive counselling, he said.
Radean Carter, a spokesperson for the Winnipeg School Division, said she couldn't comment specifically on the 57 students but that the division provides mental health and wellness support and resources to students, such as psychologists.
"Winnipeg School Division recognizes the many issues students are facing. Our doors are always open to help them," she said.
"Our staff and teachers are promoting bullying-prevention and kindness to self and others every day of the school year. In addition to anti-homophobia and bullying prevention policies, we are currently gathering feedback on a Safe and Caring policy for trans and gender diverse students and staff," she said.
The division is open to new ways to keep students healthy and well, she said.
'State of emergency'
Nash said all of Canada is in a state of emergency because youth suicide and self-harm is so prevalent.
"We get suicide notes at almost every show. This is a state of emergency everywhere."
The band is playing more than 150 shows across Canada this school year and is booking shows two years in advance.
"It's one of those jobs where you wish it wasn't necessary but the amount of issues happening within middle schools and high schools is enormous. I don't know how to describe it. It's getting worse every year," he said.
The band performs for free under a charity status to ensure the message of hope gets out, Nash said. They're now $100,000 in debt but have been in worse debt before, Nash said.
"It's quite emotionally draining for us when you sit there and you see these kids with tears in their eyes handing you a suicide note. We've started to really realize that those tears are not tears of tragedy anymore. These are tears of kids having breakthroughs right in front of you. That's a pretty crazy feeling that we get to be a part of that," he said.
"But no matter how many shows we do, we continue to see there's just more and more loss."