Skip to main content

Let’s Talk About Depression: Kevin Breel’s Confessions of a Depressed Comic — And What Happens When Your TED Talk Goes Supernova

By September 16, 2015January 19th, 20248 Comments

“The world I believe in is one where embracing your light doesn’t mean ignoring the dark.”

Kevin Breel

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, 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,


Listen & Subscribe on iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher


Connect With Kevin: Facebook | Twitter | Website | Instagram

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:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

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 and affiliated sites.

The Plantpower Way  is now available at these fine retailers!

Amazon*  |  Barnes & Noble  |  IndieBound  |  Penguin

Are you a company interested in sponsoring the podcast? Click here to learn more & take our sponsor survey.


Tell Your Friends & Share Online!

Subscribe & Review:  iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud | TuneIn

Donate: Check out the DONATE button on the podcast homepage or click HERE to learn more.


  • Erik says:

    Rich, I just want to thank you for opening up the, far too often, closed discussion. I have been fighting mental illness for over 30 years. And, It took me this long to open up about it. That’s the reality of stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. It is no different than heart disease, or any other diagnosis that any individual obtained, by no coice of their own. We need more people. like Kevin, stepping up and advocating for the silent and quiet. If people knew that they had a safe avenue, to seek help, that would be a huge stepping stone for saving lives. I just wish that I had the balls to get out there and advocate for others. Just not sure how, or where, to start. Again. Thank you for opening up your podcast for this extremely important discussion. So proud of you on this one!

  • Ann says:

    I LOVED this episode. I saw Kevin’s TedX talk a while ago, but having the backstory for it definitely ads much deeper dimension. He’s obviously super intelligent, self-aware, and articulate, and his voicing his experience is hugely helpful in pushing this stigmatized state into the light, where it belongs with all the other human experiences. It’s impressive how much of his/the depression mindset he’s been able to deconstruct. I doubt all peoples’ depressions are the same but I think they share many commonalities, like the isolation and decrease in self care. I’m a woman in mid-life but am looking forward to reading his book. Thank you Kevin for following your heart. Really, you are a warrior.

  • Ann says:

    Also, to Kevin the comic, I would very much look forward to any jokes about depression. From that kind of pain we should be able to find some HARD laughs, like falling on the floor with tears coming out of our eyes. You know, for balance. 🙂

  • Maryann says:

    Thank you for this podcast! My teen suffers from depression. Depression itself causes teens to isolate, and the stigma associated with mental illnesses makes it worse. I knew very little about depression until my teen was diagnosed. I thought anti-depressants would just magically make it go away, but it’s much more complicated, of course. Removing the stigma and giving the general public more knowledge about depression would make it easier for people to reach out for help, and might ease a little of the suffering.

  • Oscar says:

    Man, I though this was going to be one more depression talk you know… but as you often do, the conversation became so personal and reliable that it turns to be a reflection of life in general, and depression in particular, and therefore helpful even for the lucky ones who dont personally suffer from depression. I will make sure this timeless conversation is accessible as I know it would be a as helpful in years to come as it has been today. Thank you!

  • Fiona says:

    Thank you Rich and Kevin for having this conversation – it was authentic and genuine and so personal – I loved it! Whilst listening to the podcast I started thinking about the friends and family that have been touched by mental illness and really loved the advice to “sit outside the front door” so that they know you’re there, willing to listen and help when they need you.

  • Thank You says:

    Thank You, for this wonderful podcast. Kevin Breel is my hero!

  • Tommy F says:

    Kevin is a tornado of energy! Grounded in a meditation practice, this young
    man could really evolve into something special.


Leave a Reply