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TEDxKids@Ambleside

Kevin Breel: Confessions of a depressed comic

May 5, 2013

Kevin Breel didn't look like a depressed kid: team captain, at every party, funny and confident. But he tells the story of the night he realized that -- to save his own life -- he needed to say four simple words.

Kevin Breel - Comedian, activist
Writer, comic and mental health activist Kevin Breel speaks up about depression. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
For a long time in my life,
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I felt like I'd been living two different lives.
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There's the life that everyone sees,
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and then there's the life that only I see.
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And in the life that everyone sees,
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who I am is a friend,
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a son, a brother,
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a stand-up comedian and a teenager.
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That's the life everyone sees.
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If you were to ask my friends and family to describe me,
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that's what they would tell you.
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And that's a huge part of me. That is who I am.
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And if you were to ask me to describe myself,
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I'd probably say some of those same things.
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And I wouldn't be lying,
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but I wouldn't totally be telling you the truth, either,
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because the truth is,
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that's just the life everyone else sees.
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In the life that only I see, who I am,
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who I really am,
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is someone who struggles intensely with depression.
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I have for the last six years of my life,
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and I continue to every day.
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Now, for someone who has never experienced depression
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or doesn't really know what that means,
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that might surprise them to hear,
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because there's this pretty popular misconception
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that depression is just being sad
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when something in your life goes wrong,
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when you break up with your girlfriend,
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when you lose a loved one,
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when you don't get the job you wanted.
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But that's sadness. That's a natural thing.
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That's a natural human emotion.
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Real depression isn't being sad
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when something in your life goes wrong.
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Real depression is being sad
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when everything in your life is going right.
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That's real depression, and that's what I suffer from.
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And to be totally honest,
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that's hard for me to stand up here and say.
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It's hard for me to talk about,
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and it seems to be hard for everyone to talk about,
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so much so that no one's talking about it.
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And no one's talking about depression, but we need to be,
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because right now it's a massive problem.
02:09
It's a massive problem.
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But we don't see it on social media, right?
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We don't see it on Facebook. We don't see it on Twitter.
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We don't see it on the news, because it's not happy,
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it's not fun, it's not light.
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And so because we don't see it, we don't see the severity of it.
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But the severity of it and the seriousness of it is this:
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every 30 seconds,
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every 30 seconds, somewhere,
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someone in the world takes their own life
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because of depression,
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and it might be two blocks away, it might be two countries away,
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it might be two continents away, but it's happening,
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and it's happening every single day.
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And we have a tendency, as a society,
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to look at that and go, "So what?"
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So what? We look at that, and we go, "That's your problem.
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That's their problem."
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We say we're sad and we say we're sorry,
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but we also say, "So what?"
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Well, two years ago it was my problem,
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because I sat on the edge of my bed
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where I'd sat a million times before
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and I was suicidal.
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I was suicidal, and if you were to look at my life on the surface,
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you wouldn't see a kid who was suicidal.
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You'd see a kid who was the captain of his basketball team,
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the drama and theater student of the year,
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the English student of the year,
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someone who was consistently on the honor roll
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and consistently at every party.
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So you would say I wasn't depressed, you would say
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I wasn't suicidal, but you would be wrong.
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You would be wrong. So I sat there that night
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beside a bottle of pills with a pen and paper in my hand
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and I thought about taking my own life
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and I came this close to doing it.
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I came this close to doing it.
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And I didn't, so that makes me one of the lucky ones,
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one of the people who gets to step out on the ledge
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and look down but not jump,
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one of the lucky ones who survives.
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Well, I survived, and that just leaves me with my story,
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and my story is this:
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In four simple words, I suffer from depression.
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I suffer from depression,
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and for a long time, I think,
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I was living two totally different lives,
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where one person was always afraid of the other.
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I was afraid that people would see me for who I really was,
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that I wasn't the perfect, popular kid in high school everyone thought I was,
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that beneath my smile, there was struggle,
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and beneath my light, there was dark,
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and beneath my big personality just hid even bigger pain.
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See, some people might fear girls not liking them back.
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Some people might fear sharks. Some people might fear death.
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But for me, for a large part of my life, I feared myself.
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I feared my truth, I feared my honesty, I feared my vulnerability,
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and that fear made me feel
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like I was forced into a corner,
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like I was forced into a corner and there was only one way out,
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and so I thought about that way every single day.
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I thought about it every single day,
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and if I'm being totally honest, standing here
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I've thought about it again since, because that's the sickness,
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that's the struggle, that's depression,
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and depression isn't chicken pox.
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You don't beat it once and it's gone forever.
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It's something you live with. It's something you live in.
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It's the roommate you can't kick out. It's the voice you can't ignore.
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It's the feelings you can't seem to escape,
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the scariest part is that after a while,
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you become numb to it. It becomes normal for you,
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and what you really fear the most
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isn't the suffering inside of you.
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It's the stigma inside of others,
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it's the shame, it's the embarrassment,
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it's the disapproving look on a friend's face,
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it's the whispers in the hallway that you're weak,
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it's the comments that you're crazy.
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That's what keeps you from getting help.
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That's what makes you hold it in and hide it.
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It's the stigma. So you hold it in and you hide it,
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and you hold it in and you hide it,
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and even though it's keeping you in bed every day
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and it's making your life feel empty no matter how much you try and fill it,
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you hide it, because the stigma in our society
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around depression is very real.
06:00
It's very real, and if you think that it isn't, ask yourself this:
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Would you rather make your next Facebook status
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say you're having a tough time getting out of bed
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because you hurt your back
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or you're having a tough time getting out of bed every morning
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because you're depressed?
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That's the stigma, because unfortunately,
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we live in a world where if you break your arm,
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everyone runs over to sign your cast,
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but if you tell people you're depressed, everyone runs the other way.
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That's the stigma.
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We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down
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other than our brains. And that's ignorance.
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That's pure ignorance, and that ignorance has created
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a world that doesn't understand depression,
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that doesn't understand mental health.
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And that's ironic to me, because depression
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is one of the best documented problems we have in the world,
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yet it's one of the least discussed.
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We just push it aside and put it in a corner
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and pretend it's not there and hope it'll fix itself.
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Well, it won't. It hasn't, and it's not going to,
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because that's wishful thinking,
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and wishful thinking isn't a game plan, it's procrastination,
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and we can't procrastinate on something this important.
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The first step in solving any problem
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is recognizing there is one.
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Well, we haven't done that, so we can't really expect
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to find an answer when we're still afraid of the question.
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And I don't know what the solution is.
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I wish I did, but I don't -- but I think,
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I think it has to start here.
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It has to start with me, it has to start with you,
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it has to start with the people who are suffering,
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the ones who are hidden in the shadows.
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We need to speak up and shatter the silence.
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We need to be the ones who are brave for what we believe in,
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because if there's one thing that I've come to realize,
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if there's one thing that I see as the biggest problem,
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it's not in building a world
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where we eliminate the ignorance of others.
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It's in building a world where we teach the acceptance of ourselves,
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where we're okay with who we are,
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because when we get honest,
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we see that we all struggle and we all suffer.
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Whether it's with this, whether it's with something else,
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we all know what it is to hurt.
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We all know what it is to have pain in our heart,
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and we all know how important it is to heal.
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But right now, depression is society's deep cut
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that we're content to put a Band-Aid over and pretend it's not there.
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Well, it is there. It is there, and you know what? It's okay.
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Depression is okay. If you're going through it, know that you're okay.
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And know that you're sick, you're not weak,
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and it's an issue, not an identity,
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because when you get past the fear and the ridicule
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and the judgment and the stigma of others,
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you can see depression for what it really is,
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and that's just a part of life,
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just a part of life, and as much as I hate,
08:39
as much as I hate some of the places,
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some of the parts of my life depression has dragged me down to,
08:45
in a lot of ways I'm grateful for it.
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Because yeah, it's put me in the valleys,
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but only to show me there's peaks,
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and yeah it's dragged me through the dark
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but only to remind me there is light.
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My pain, more than anything in 19 years on this planet,
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has given me perspective, and my hurt,
09:02
my hurt has forced me to have hope,
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have hope and to have faith, faith in myself,
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faith in others, faith that it can get better,
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that we can change this, that we can speak up
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and speak out and fight back against ignorance,
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fight back against intolerance,
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and more than anything,
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learn to love ourselves,
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learn to accept ourselves for who we are,
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the people we are, not the people the world wants us to be.
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Because the world I believe in is one
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where embracing your light doesn't mean ignoring your dark.
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The world I believe in is one where we're measured
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by our ability to overcome adversities, not avoid them.
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The world I believe in is one where I can look someone in the eye
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and say, "I'm going through hell,"
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and they can look back at me and go, "Me too," and that's okay,
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and it's okay because depression is okay. We're people.
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We're people, and we struggle and we suffer
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and we bleed and we cry, and if you think that true strength
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means never showing any weakness, then I'm here
10:01
to tell you you're wrong.
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You're wrong, because it's the opposite.
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We're people, and we have problems.
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We're not perfect, and that's okay.
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So we need to stop the ignorance,
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stop the intolerance, stop the stigma,
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and stop the silence, and we need to take away the taboos,
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take a look at the truth, and start talking,
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because the only way we're going to beat a problem
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that people are battling alone
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is by standing strong together,
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by standing strong together.
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And I believe that we can.
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I believe that we can. Thank you guys so much.
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This is a dream come true. Thank you. (Applause)
10:50
Thank you. (Applause)
10:52

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Kevin Breel - Comedian, activist
Writer, comic and mental health activist Kevin Breel speaks up about depression.

Why you should listen

As a teenager, Kevin Breel almost took his own life. His story, so powerfully told in his viral TEDxYouth Talk, gives voice to an often silent struggle and offers a message of hope.

As Jack Knox writes in the Times Colonist :

His story, abbreviated, is this: He grew up in Cadboro Bay, a popular kid, fun at parties, English and drama awards, always on the honour roll, captain of the Lambrick Park basketball team when it was ranked No. 1 in the province. Under it all was the other him, the kid who plunged into depression at age 13 when his best friend died in a car crash.

Breel now speaks out about his own depression, with a mission of helping kids his age realize they're not alone.

The original video is available on TED.com
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