Teen basketball star opens up about his depression, video goes viral

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9 2013 1:55 p.m. MDT

At 17, Kevin Breel found himself sitting at the edge of his bed with a bottle of pills and a suicide note in hand, but what kept him from taking his own life was the realization that he had never spoken to anyone about his depression.

kevinbreel.com

At 17 years old, Kevin Breel found himself sitting at the edge of his bed with a bottle of pills and a suicide note in hand, but what kept him from taking his own life was the realization that he had never spoken to anyone about his depression.

"I remember this one moment when I was writing and I got to the end of the page and I realized I've never once talked about any of these things. Never," Breel said on the "Today Show." "And if someone were to read this — a friend, my family member, my coach, my team, they would have no idea. And I thought I can't quit on myself until I help myself."

Breel is now 20 years old and pursuing a career in comedy, but he hasn't forgotten about his depression nor has he overcome it. Yet his courage to talk openly about it is influencing people around the world.

Earlier this year, Breel began this open discussion by presenting a TED talk about depression. Since the video was posted this June, it has received more than 1.6 million views. In the video, Breel discusses the stigma around depression and how that lack of acceptance continues to be detrimental to those suffering.

"Unfortunately, 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, everybody runs the other way," Breel said during his TED talk. "We are so so so accepting of any body part breaking down, other than our brains."

Breel described depression as not just being sad when bad things happen, but as being sad when everything good has happened.

"We had just won a high school basketball championship, and I was leading scorer of the tournament," Breel said on the "Today Show." "I was first team all-star, and our team won the championship. I had everything that I had thought of for four years. And I realized that that wasn't going to take away my pain."

That's when Breel began speaking at schools and eventually at the TEDxKids conference. His message was meant to not only raise awareness and understanding, but to assure those who suffer of the blessings he's encountered because of his depression.

"It's OK. Depression is OK. If you're going through it, know that you're OK. And know that you're sick. You're not weak and it's an issue not an identity," Breel said in his TED talk.

"As much as I hate some of the places, some of the parts of my life depression has dragged me down to, in a lot of ways I'm grateful for it. … My hurt has forced me to have hope, to have hope and to have faith in myself. Faith in others. Faith that it can get better. … The world I believe in is where we are measured by our ability to overcome adversities, not avoid them."

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The views that Breel shares have resonated with many, as 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression, according to Today.com. Depression is the main topic that will be addressed for World Mental Health Day, which takes place every year on Oct. 10, and it continues to be a topic of increased importance.

Mental health was also recently addressed by Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 183rd Semiannual General Conference. In his message, Elder Holland noted the need to understand the seriousness of this illness.

"When I speak of this, I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines or other discouraging moments we all have. Everyone is going to be anxious or downhearted on occasion," Elder Holland said.

"But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively — though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!"

Elder Holland relayed a similar message to Breel's, as he said that, above all, one should never let go of hope, whether struggling with depression themselves or watching a loved one struggle.

"Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. … Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost," Elder Holland said.

"Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead."

Find more information about depression and other mental health illnesses online.

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com

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