Asking for help a sign of strength

Traditional Knowledge Keeper Dr. Myra Laramee recites opening prayer at Winnipeg’s Vital Signs community consultation at University of Winnipeg. Looking on L-R: Panelists Dr. Lisa Monkman, Sean Miller, Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud and keynote speaker Robb Nash. /ROB MAHON

Just before this year’s Bell Let’s Talk, one Winnipeg initiative played its own part in raising awareness for mental health issues, and brought in some star power to help spread the word.

On Jan. 23, Canadian rocker Robb Nash joined Winnipeg’s Vital Signs at the University of Winnipeg to talk about mental health and addiction. The “Vital Conversation” was co-sponsored by The Winnipeg Foundation and Canadian Mental Health Association.

Nash had his own struggles with mental health, including suicidal thoughts, following a collision with a semi-truck that left him legally dead for a short while before his vital signs returned. He remained in a coma for several weeks.

“The most common cliché I heard was… everything happens for a reason,” Nash told the assembled crowd. “I lay there trying to figure out what the reason was. Was it because I was bad?”

Nash took his story of recovery on the road, and has spoken to more than 900,000 students at 300 schools across Canada. He says he has received more than 600 suicide notes from students who, after hearing him speak, have decided against killing themselves.

“I don’t think bad things happen for a reason,” he said, “but I do think they happen with potential, good and bad.”

One of Nash’s fellow speakers, Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud of 1JustCity, praised the way Nash approached the mental health conversation.

“One of the key aspects that I think you pull off,” she told Nash, “is that you make asking for help cool.” She also said Nash was great at showing kids that asking for help was a sign of strength, not weakness.

Emcee Eva Kovacs hosted the Vital Conversation on mental health, addiction and healing. /ROB MAHON

Eva Kovacs, who emceed the night, saw Nash speak live for the first time that night.

“You can hear from him when he talks about 600 kids giving him suicide notes, it really gives you an idea of how much of an issue mental health, depression, addiction, suicide, all of that is.”

Kovacs also added that, “To have someone who can go out and have that kind of a grassroots impact coast-to-coast is incredible.”

Winnipeg’s Vital Signs® initiative, a project of The Winnipeg Foundation, is a check-up on the vitality of our community. As part of Vital Signs®, the first in a series of Vital Conversations was held on Mon. Jan. 23, focused on Mental Health, Addictions and Healing. 

For more stories on this event, go to “Digging deep on mental health and well-being“. You can also view a full recording or a recap of highlights from the discussion by visiting The Winnipeg Foundation’s Facebook page.

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My name is Rob, I'm a 21 year old communications student at Red River College. I have a huge interest in sports, specifically hockey, and an interest in journalism as well.

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