TODAY   |  October 08, 2013

Teen’s TED talk on depression goes viral

Kevin Breel is an unlikely advocate for mental health. After entertaining thoughts of suicide, the comedian decided to talk to about his depression. His TED talk, which he did at 19 years old, has gone viral, and he says it resonates with people because it is so common. TODAY’s Willie Geist reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> but first, 120 million people around the world deal with depression and many deal with it alone. willie geist met a young man working to change that. good morning.

>> good morning. he is an unlikely advocate for mental health . he's a 20-year-old from canada, popular kid in high school . a basketball star that's an aspiring comic but beneath the laugher there's deep pain. kevin says he was leading a double life .

>> i look at the school and i would know in my head that i'm about to walk in there and smile, laugh, high five people, and put on a total front.

>> what did depression feel like at first? how did you know you had it?

>> i felt like i couldn't be happy. you're sitting there and you feel like you're on the sidelines and not in the game.

>> kevin believes his depression was triggered by two events in his life. the tragic loss of a best friend and, later, his parents divorce.

>> i started to hate myself. i couldn't explain why or justify why to anyone so i didn't feel like i could talk about it.

>> he used sports as an outlet but he hit his lowest point at what should have been a high.

>> we just won a high school basketball championship. i was the leading scorer of the tournament, first team all star. i had everything that i had thought of for four years and i realized that that wasn't going to take away my pain.

>> at the age of 17, kevin sat on his bed with a bottle of pills, a pen and a paper and contemplated taking his life.

>> i remember this one moment when i was writing and i got to the end of the page and i realized that i have never once talked about any of these things. never and if someone were to read this, a friend or family member, my coach, my teammates, they would have no idea. and i thought that i can't quit on myself until i try and help myself. and it just broke me open.

>> reporter: as part of his recovery kevin began speaking at schools.

>> what you really fear the most isn't the suffering inside of you, it's the stigma inside of others. it's the shame, it's the embarrassment.

>> reporter: and eventually caught the attention of t.e.d., an organization dedicated to sharing ideas.

>> we live in a world where if you break your arm everyone runs over to sign your cast but if you tell people you're depressed, everyone runs the other way.

>> reporter: within weeks of the online appearance his video went viral. hitting home for millions who suffer in silence and for those who love them.

>> in my ways i'm grateful for my depression . what do you mean by that?

>> life is about doality. there's happiness and sadness and light and dark and hope and hurt. for me, nothing in my life ever helped me understand more about myself, more about others, more about life than dealing with depression .

>> an impressive young man. it went viral because his story is common. he wants to move the conversation forward and end the shame and stigma attached to mental illness . you can see the entire t.e.d. talk by logging on to it's a good one.

>> reporter: it's a good conversation starter, too, willie. thank you so much. we'll continue that conversation with gail saltz. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> 1.5 million hits for this 10 minute talk about depression . are you surprised it struck a cord?

>> no. on one hand one out of every ten teens has depression . everyone knows somebody that has depression . everybody can relate to this and to the feeling that you have to fake it and you have to hide and the shame of it. on the other hand, it's very unique. he is to brave to step out and be willing to do this for an adolescent that is extremely unique.

>> i also think he's very eloquent. he says real depression isn't being sad when something in your life goes wrong, real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right. do you agree with that?

>> absolutely. depression is a biologic process. it's something that's going on in your brain that causes you to feel sad doesn't have to do necessarily with what's going on around you. it's an illness and it is so important.

>> he talks about his personal experience. coming close to trying to commit suicide and i'm reminded that young boys have higher suicide rates than young girls.

>> they tend to use more lethal methods but also boys are even less likely to seek help than girls. they're less likely to talk about their feelings so they don't necessarily get into treatment as ready.

>> sometimes parents don't know what warning signs to look for.

>> they don't. but the truth is the signs are always there. you have to actually sit down with your kid and ask them how they're feeling. we tend to go through our day, how are you? and we don't really mean that because we don't want to hear that things aren't okay but if you actually sat down and said really, really tell me how you're feeling and if they start to tell you they're having problems you need to ask do you have any thoughts of ending your life or suicide because you can intervene. you can intervene and treat depression but you can't suicide.

>> it's an important discussion to have. thank you for being