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TEDxKids@Ambleside

Kevin Breel: Confessions of a depressed comic

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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.

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

For a long time in my life,
00:12
I felt like I'd been living two different lives.
00:15
There's the life that everyone sees,
00:19
and then there's the life that only I see.
00:23
And in the life that everyone sees,
00:26
who I am is a friend,
00:29
a son, a brother,
00:31
a stand-up comedian and a teenager.
00:34
That's the life everyone sees.
00:37
If you were to ask my friends and family to describe me,
00:39
that's what they would tell you.
00:41
And that's a huge part of me. That is who I am.
00:43
And if you were to ask me to describe myself,
00:45
I'd probably say some of those same things.
00:47
And I wouldn't be lying,
00:50
but I wouldn't totally be telling you the truth, either,
00:54
because the truth is,
00:58
that's just the life everyone else sees.
00:59
In the life that only I see, who I am,
01:02
who I really am,
01:06
is someone who struggles intensely with depression.
01:08
I have for the last six years of my life,
01:12
and I continue to every day.
01:15
Now, for someone who has never experienced depression
01:20
or doesn't really know what that means,
01:23
that might surprise them to hear,
01:24
because there's this pretty popular misconception
01:25
that depression is just being sad
01:27
when something in your life goes wrong,
01:30
when you break up with your girlfriend,
01:32
when you lose a loved one,
01:34
when you don't get the job you wanted.
01:35
But that's sadness. That's a natural thing.
01:37
That's a natural human emotion.
01:39
Real depression isn't being sad
01:41
when something in your life goes wrong.
01:45
Real depression is being sad
01:48
when everything in your life is going right.
01:50
That's real depression, and that's what I suffer from.
01:53
And to be totally honest,
01:55
that's hard for me to stand up here and say.
01:58
It's hard for me to talk about,
02:00
and it seems to be hard for everyone to talk about,
02:02
so much so that no one's talking about it.
02:05
And no one's talking about depression, but we need to be,
02:07
because right now it's a massive problem.
02:10
It's a massive problem.
02:13
But we don't see it on social media, right?
02:15
We don't see it on Facebook. We don't see it on Twitter.
02:17
We don't see it on the news, because it's not happy,
02:19
it's not fun, it's not light.
02:21
And so because we don't see it, we don't see the severity of it.
02:22
But the severity of it and the seriousness of it is this:
02:26
every 30 seconds,
02:30
every 30 seconds, somewhere,
02:31
someone in the world takes their own life
02:34
because of depression,
02:36
and it might be two blocks away, it might be two countries away,
02:37
it might be two continents away, but it's happening,
02:39
and it's happening every single day.
02:41
And we have a tendency, as a society,
02:43
to look at that and go, "So what?"
02:46
So what? We look at that, and we go, "That's your problem.
02:51
That's their problem."
02:56
We say we're sad and we say we're sorry,
02:58
but we also say, "So what?"
03:00
Well, two years ago it was my problem,
03:02
because I sat on the edge of my bed
03:06
where I'd sat a million times before
03:10
and I was suicidal.
03:14
I was suicidal, and if you were to look at my life on the surface,
03:17
you wouldn't see a kid who was suicidal.
03:21
You'd see a kid who was the captain of his basketball team,
03:23
the drama and theater student of the year,
03:25
the English student of the year,
03:27
someone who was consistently on the honor roll
03:28
and consistently at every party.
03:30
So you would say I wasn't depressed, you would say
03:33
I wasn't suicidal, but you would be wrong.
03:35
You would be wrong. So I sat there that night
03:38
beside a bottle of pills with a pen and paper in my hand
03:39
and I thought about taking my own life
03:43
and I came this close to doing it.
03:45
I came this close to doing it.
03:49
And I didn't, so that makes me one of the lucky ones,
03:50
one of the people who gets to step out on the ledge
03:53
and look down but not jump,
03:56
one of the lucky ones who survives.
03:58
Well, I survived, and that just leaves me with my story,
04:00
and my story is this:
04:02
In four simple words, I suffer from depression.
04:05
I suffer from depression,
04:08
and for a long time, I think,
04:10
I was living two totally different lives,
04:18
where one person was always afraid of the other.
04:20
I was afraid that people would see me for who I really was,
04:22
that I wasn't the perfect, popular kid in high school everyone thought I was,
04:24
that beneath my smile, there was struggle,
04:28
and beneath my light, there was dark,
04:30
and beneath my big personality just hid even bigger pain.
04:32
See, some people might fear girls not liking them back.
04:36
Some people might fear sharks. Some people might fear death.
04:39
But for me, for a large part of my life, I feared myself.
04:41
I feared my truth, I feared my honesty, I feared my vulnerability,
04:46
and that fear made me feel
04:48
like I was forced into a corner,
04:51
like I was forced into a corner and there was only one way out,
04:53
and so I thought about that way every single day.
04:56
I thought about it every single day,
05:00
and if I'm being totally honest, standing here
05:01
I've thought about it again since, because that's the sickness,
05:03
that's the struggle, that's depression,
05:06
and depression isn't chicken pox.
05:08
You don't beat it once and it's gone forever.
05:09
It's something you live with. It's something you live in.
05:11
It's the roommate you can't kick out. It's the voice you can't ignore.
05:14
It's the feelings you can't seem to escape,
05:18
the scariest part is that after a while,
05:20
you become numb to it. It becomes normal for you,
05:25
and what you really fear the most
05:28
isn't the suffering inside of you.
05:30
It's the stigma inside of others,
05:33
it's the shame, it's the embarrassment,
05:34
it's the disapproving look on a friend's face,
05:37
it's the whispers in the hallway that you're weak,
05:39
it's the comments that you're crazy.
05:43
That's what keeps you from getting help.
05:44
That's what makes you hold it in and hide it.
05:46
It's the stigma. So you hold it in and you hide it,
05:49
and you hold it in and you hide it,
05:51
and even though it's keeping you in bed every day
05:53
and it's making your life feel empty no matter how much you try and fill it,
05:55
you hide it, because the stigma in our society
05:58
around depression is very real.
06:00
It's very real, and if you think that it isn't, ask yourself this:
06:03
Would you rather make your next Facebook status
06:06
say you're having a tough time getting out of bed
06:08
because you hurt your back
06:10
or you're having a tough time getting out of bed every morning
06:12
because you're depressed?
06:14
That's the stigma, because unfortunately,
06:16
we live in a world where if you break your arm,
06:18
everyone runs over to sign your cast,
06:21
but if you tell people you're depressed, everyone runs the other way.
06:23
That's the stigma.
06:26
We are so, so, so accepting of any body part breaking down
06:29
other than our brains. And that's ignorance.
06:34
That's pure ignorance, and that ignorance has created
06:37
a world that doesn't understand depression,
06:39
that doesn't understand mental health.
06:40
And that's ironic to me, because depression
06:43
is one of the best documented problems we have in the world,
06:45
yet it's one of the least discussed.
06:47
We just push it aside and put it in a corner
06:49
and pretend it's not there and hope it'll fix itself.
06:52
Well, it won't. It hasn't, and it's not going to,
06:55
because that's wishful thinking,
06:59
and wishful thinking isn't a game plan, it's procrastination,
07:01
and we can't procrastinate on something this important.
07:03
The first step in solving any problem
07:08
is recognizing there is one.
07:12
Well, we haven't done that, so we can't really expect
07:13
to find an answer when we're still afraid of the question.
07:16
And I don't know what the solution is.
07:19
I wish I did, but I don't -- but I think,
07:23
I think it has to start here.
07:25
It has to start with me, it has to start with you,
07:27
it has to start with the people who are suffering,
07:30
the ones who are hidden in the shadows.
07:33
We need to speak up and shatter the silence.
07:35
We need to be the ones who are brave for what we believe in,
07:37
because if there's one thing that I've come to realize,
07:39
if there's one thing that I see as the biggest problem,
07:42
it's not in building a world
07:46
where we eliminate the ignorance of others.
07:49
It's in building a world where we teach the acceptance of ourselves,
07:52
where we're okay with who we are,
07:56
because when we get honest,
07:57
we see that we all struggle and we all suffer.
07:58
Whether it's with this, whether it's with something else,
08:01
we all know what it is to hurt.
08:03
We all know what it is to have pain in our heart,
08:06
and we all know how important it is to heal.
08:08
But right now, depression is society's deep cut
08:11
that we're content to put a Band-Aid over and pretend it's not there.
08:14
Well, it is there. It is there, and you know what? It's okay.
08:17
Depression is okay. If you're going through it, know that you're okay.
08:21
And know that you're sick, you're not weak,
08:25
and it's an issue, not an identity,
08:27
because when you get past the fear and the ridicule
08:29
and the judgment and the stigma of others,
08:32
you can see depression for what it really is,
08:34
and that's just a part of life,
08:37
just a part of life, and as much as I hate,
08:39
as much as I hate some of the places,
08:43
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.
08:49
Because yeah, it's put me in the valleys,
08:51
but only to show me there's peaks,
08:53
and yeah it's dragged me through the dark
08:54
but only to remind me there is light.
08:56
My pain, more than anything in 19 years on this planet,
08:58
has given me perspective, and my hurt,
09:02
my hurt has forced me to have hope,
09:04
have hope and to have faith, faith in myself,
09:07
faith in others, faith that it can get better,
09:10
that we can change this, that we can speak up
09:12
and speak out and fight back against ignorance,
09:14
fight back against intolerance,
09:17
and more than anything,
09:19
learn to love ourselves,
09:21
learn to accept ourselves for who we are,
09:24
the people we are, not the people the world wants us to be.
09:26
Because the world I believe in is one
09:30
where embracing your light doesn't mean ignoring your dark.
09:32
The world I believe in is one where we're measured
09:36
by our ability to overcome adversities, not avoid them.
09:38
The world I believe in is one where I can look someone in the eye
09:43
and say, "I'm going through hell,"
09:47
and they can look back at me and go, "Me too," and that's okay,
09:49
and it's okay because depression is okay. We're people.
09:52
We're people, and we struggle and we suffer
09:56
and we bleed and we cry, and if you think that true strength
09:59
means never showing any weakness, then I'm here
10:01
to tell you you're wrong.
10:03
You're wrong, because it's the opposite.
10:07
We're people, and we have problems.
10:11
We're not perfect, and that's okay.
10:13
So we need to stop the ignorance,
10:15
stop the intolerance, stop the stigma,
10:17
and stop the silence, and we need to take away the taboos,
10:20
take a look at the truth, and start talking,
10:25
because the only way we're going to beat a problem
10:29
that people are battling alone
10:34
is by standing strong together,
10:37
by standing strong together.
10:41
And I believe that we can.
10:45
I believe that we can. Thank you guys so much.
10:48
This is a dream come true. Thank you. (Applause)
10:50
Thank you. (Applause)
10:52

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About the speaker:

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.

More profile about the speaker
Kevin Breel | Speaker | TED.com