Author and Ted Talk Sensation Kevin Breel Broaches Subject of Teen Depression at RBR
Twenty-two year old, author, performer, Ted Talk sensation and mental health activist Kevin Breel recently brought his important message of teenage depression and awareness to Red Bank Regional. His visit was sponsored by the RBR SOURCE, the School-based Youth Service Program. RBR was the only high school stop on his book tour due to a poignant invitation proffered by RBR senior Julie Coker, a member of the Youth Council Executive Committee for Society for the Prevention of Suicide in Freehold. Incredibly engaging, funny and self-deprecating, Kevin Breel commanded his audience’s attention on a very heavy subject.
Six foot six, captain of the basketball team, the life of the party and a stand-up comedian, Kevin Breel told the RBR student body that he lived two lives. One was the persona he presented to the world, as previously described, the other hid itself away only to surface in the privacy of his room.
Like many who suffer from depression; his mental illness had genetic roots as he described life with a depressed father who self medicated with alcohol and drugs. The inherited condition was triggered at the age of 13 by the sudden death of a good friend. But years of living with a depressed parent taught him to suppress and deny what he was experiencing.
“It was exhausting;” he told the captivated audience, “The lie was getting bigger and bigger and harder to change.”
One day, when he felt he had hit rock bottom, he decided to end the charade and picked up his pen to write his suicide note. That was his wake-up call, and somehow he summoned the courage to do the unthinkable, break the taboo and talk about it to his family.
Kevin left high school at 17 and began a stand-up comic career in his Canadian hometown in Victoria, British Columbia. His talent propelled him on a promising career while he simultaneously sought counseling for his depression. Just about that time, he was deeply touched by the suicide of local girl whose silent plea for help was recorded online with words she wrote on flash cards. He began to research suicide to surprisingly discover that one million people a day die by their own hand and that it was the number one cause of death for young people in his county of Vancouver. He thought he had suffered alone. He asked his counselor what he should do about his profound feelings and connection to the young suicide.
His counselor responded, “All of us have a story. We can either share it or be ashamed of it.”
Kevin began telling his story which became part of his performance shtick. By the age of 19, his popularity landed him on a Ted Talk program, which he titled “Confessions of a Depressed Comic”. Shepherded by the website Upworthy, it was promoted with this headline, “This kid thinks he can save so many lives if we say these four words, “I Struggle with Depression.”
The main thrust of his Ted Talk was to help break the silence and stigma surrounding depression.
He told the RBR students, “This generation not only has the power to change the conversation but to change the culture.”
His recording went viral, resulting in one of the most frequently viewed Ted Talks of all time registering over 4 million views. He became a mental health activist as the National Spokesperson for the Bell “LET’S TALK Campaign and visited over 100 college campuses throughout North America. He brought his message to TV via MTV, CNN, NBC and CBS. He was featured in the Wall Street Journal, and the Huffington Post.
People from all over the world wrote him seeking advice. He told the students that the overwhelming response he received from the Ted Talk formed the inspiration for his book explaining, “I couldn’t reply to all those messages. Kids deserved more than four lines on a Facebook.”
His book, Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live was published by Random House and released in September of this year. He is currently touring North America promoting the book which he signed for many students at the assemblies. The books were pre-purchased by the SOURCE for distribution to the student body and will be held on reference at the school.
Kevin left the students with a story about one of the thousands of young people who corresponded with him.
“Her name was Amber,” He told them, “and she sent me an email with the subject line ‘Please Read.’ How can you ignore a subject line like that? Anyway she stumbled across my Ted Talk and watched it the day she had planned to take her own life. She wrote, ‘For you, because I don’t need it anymore.’ Attached was her suicide note.”
For more information on Kevin Breel, visit his website at http://kevinbreel.com/.