“The world I believe in is one where embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring the dark.”
Let’s talk about depression.
Kevin Breel didn’t fit the adolescent persona you would expect to fall prey to this debilitating affliction. One of the popular kids in high school, he was team captain of his standout basketball team. A class clown who would later pursue a career in stand up comedy. The guy who could hold court around the party keg and always keep everyone else laughing. Everyone except himself.
At the time, Kevin was leading a clandestine double life. A dark secret he kept well hidden behind his well attuned comedic timing. A confusing and dire mental state that would leave him bedridden and secluded in isolation for days on end. A fatal secret that culminated in a suicide attempt that nearly took his young life.
What prevented Kevin from sharing his pain and reaching out for help when he needed it most?
The stigma that still surrounds a mental disease that lurks in the shadows, feeds on isolation and goes unchecked due to profound misunderstanding and misplaced judgment.
You might be shocked to hear that according to Save.org, depression is the 2nd leading cause of death for young Americans between the ages of 15-24. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression impacts 121 million people across the globe and is the leading cause of disability worldwide, claiming 800,000 lives annually. That’s one death by depression-induced suicide every 40 seconds.
Luckily, Kevin found a way out. A solution that began with the courage to directly confront his pain.
It was a move that not only saved his life, but gave him newfound purpose — a quest to shatter the profound yet unwarranted stigma that surrounds his disease by becoming an ambassador of hope to teens everywhere that they need not suffer in silence.
The message? That by embracing the darkness within and bringing it into the light, together we can heal.
At age 19, Kevin reared his gangly 6’3″ frame atop a stage in a small nondescript auditorium to share his story publicly for the first time. The circumstance? A local TEDx event in Ambleside, a quiet neighborhood in southwest Edmonton, Alberta. Hardly an illustrious venue, he looked out upon a small crowd of no more than 80 and thought, I’ll be lucky if more than a couple hundred people ultimately watch this when it goes online.
What happened next was astonishing.
Lauded for its immediacy, raw honesty, unbridled emotion and authentic vulnerability, Confessions of a Depressed Comic struck a universal cultural nerve and became an instant viral hit. Collecting over half a million views in it’s first 30 days, it now clocks well over 3 million views, making it one of the most watched TED Talks of all time. Featured on more than 200+ media outlets, Mashable called it “one of the moments that brought the world together.”
A 15-minute speech that forever altered the trajectory of Kevin’s life.
Today Kevin is an internationally recognized mental health activist. A large personality exuding warmth and humor channeled around topics people tend not to talk about, Kevin has become an in demand guest speaker at over 100 colleges and universities across North America, frequently sharing the stage with Governors, professional athletes and celebrities. He has written opinion pieces for major media and his work has been featured by The Huffington Post, MTV, CNN, The TODAY Show on NBC, Mashable and The Wall Street Journal. Not enough? Kevin has also personally aided in raising millions of dollars in mental health fundraising,
This week marks the release of his first book, Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live*— a bumpy and brutally honest memoir that explores his battle with depression and illuminates how the real challenge in life isn’t trying to be perfect, it’s accepting the dark parts of ourselves. It’s a great read I highly suggest you check it out.
Today’s story is a cautionary tale. But it’s also a story of hope and redemption. A conversation that covers a lot of ground, including:
- truth & misconceptions surrounding depression
- the power of sincerity & vulnerability in storytelling
- the impact of social isolation
- the external façade vs. hidden melancholy
- acceptance & commitment to therapy
- the implications of a viral TED Talk
- the correlation between depression & comedy
- acceptance of the dark to embrace the light
- predicting onset & combating depression precursors
- the relationship of service to self-healing
- the impact of creative choice on Millennials
Kevin is a super cool kid, amongst the best of his Millennial peers. It was a pleasure getting to know him and I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.
Question of the Week: Does someone in your life suffer from depression? How can you help? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Peace + Plants,
Thanks to this week’s sponsors:
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Order your copy of Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live* by Kevin Breel (Available now)
Pre-order Dr. Garth Davis’ book Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It* (Coming October 6th)
Background, Context & Reference:
- Save.org: Suicide Facts
- Forbes: Boy Battles Stigma & Depression With New Book
- To Write Love on Her Arms (Non-Profit): twloha.com
- HuffPost: Kevin Breel, 19-Year-Old, Explains What It Feels Like To Be Depressed In Beautiful TEDxYouth Speech (Video)
- MSNBC: Comedic relief: Kevin Breel tells his story
- EveryDayHealth: Athlete, Scholar, Comedian: Kevin Breel Proves Depression Doesn’t Always Show on the Outside
- TEDBlog: Kevin Breel talks to the Today Show about his viral video
- TEDTalk: Confessions of a Depressed Comic
- CBSNews: Young Comedian Shares Robin Williams’ Struggle
- Inc.: 30 Under 30: America’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs
- YouTube: Amanda Todd: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm, Fighting
- Parade: Field Guide:Millennials vs. Baby Boomers
- Film: Comedian* by Jerry Seinfeld
- RichRoll: Why You Should Stop Lifehacking & Invest In The Journey
- Time: 7 Lessons I Learned From Taking 10 Days Off Social Media and Email
- Book: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression* by Andrew Solomon
Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:
- Josh Shipp: American teen behavior expert/motivational speaker
- Carl Jung: Swiss psychiatrist
- Amanda Todd: Bullied teen
- Brené Brown: Author & public speaker
- Casey Neistat: Film Director
- Gary Vaynerchuk: Author, public speaker & internet personality
- Tim Ferriss: Author & public speaker
- Jamie Tworkowski: Founder of To Write Love On Her Arms
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP 116 – Josh Shipp: The Teen Whisperer (Part I)
- RRP 117 – Josh Shipp: The Teen Whisperer (Part II)
- RRP 173 – Ask Me Anything: Overcoming Shame
- RRP 107 – Tim Van Orden Runs Beyond The Kale
- RRP 161 – Luke Tyburski on Combating Depression Through Ultra-Endurance
- RRP 168 – Ryan Holiday on Why The Obstacle Is The Way
Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.
*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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