Kevin Breel was the guest speaker at the Hamilton Art Galley Nov. 29 where he spoke candidly about his battles with depression. Breel came to talk about suicide, a topic he has spoken to audiences before many times. Ever since he gave a Tedx talk to students as an 19-year-old, he has been in demand across North America.
Breel was speaking at a conference on Tackling Depression – Focus on Youth, sponsored by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and McMaster University. CameronHelps was one of the community partners who attended and displayed materials.
As a high school student, Kevin was a basketball star, popular and outgoing. But during his four years at school, he lived a secret life. Thinking that winning the Vancouver city basketball championship would make him happy, the victory turned out to be a turning point. He realized that medals didn’t make a difference.
After the championship, he decided to write a suicide note and end his life. But as he was reading his note, Breel decided to himself that he can’t quit until he tries to reach out for help. “I was ashamed, but I was able to think about it and see past the fog. I started to talk to my mom and sisters, teammates and counsellors.”
“I learned it was okay to admit defeat. I just surrendered to what I was feeling and saw an opportunity to join the winning side.” Breel said he wanted to do more in the community and thought about other people like him who were hiding their feelings. When Amanda Todd was bullied and took her own life, he was very upset and wanted to go back to his high school to talk about depression.
After his first talk, students came up to him and said “this is my story, that’s my background.” He was flooded with emails and facebook messages. Two years after the day he thought of taking his own life, he was upon the stage in front of 500 students as a Tedx speaker. His talk went viral and had 2 million hits on social media and he talk has been translatedinto eight languages.
“I didn’t know how large the problem was. I realized it wasn’t a guy issue, or people suffering from just one race, religion or colour. There were a lot of people suffering in silence and I wanted to enable others to come forward.”
“I want to let people know that there is hope and it gets better. February 26 two years ago would have been the biggest mistake of my life. Now I couldn’t be happier being with you in Hamilton,” he said.