Victoria High School vice-principal Chris Koutougos, left, joins his former Lambrick Park secondary student Kevin Breel on stage in the Vic High auditorium Monday. Breel, now a Toronto-based standup comic and mental health advocate, spoke about depression to students this week. Photo contributed

Vic High students take Saanich-reared comic’s words on mental illness to heart

School counsellors see uptick in visits after Kevin Breel relays his depression story

A talented former high school athlete and honour roll student who is outgoing and has a lot going for him, Kevin Breel may not present as a stereotypical mental illness sufferer.

But the Lambrick Park Secondary grad, who plies his trade these days as a standup comic, has been battling depression for years and has become a sought-after speaker as an advocate for talking about mental illness. Toronto-based Breel, 23, brought his message of hope to Vic High students Monday, telling them how he nearly took his own life, how he addressed his illness and how it’s important to reach out for help.

Breel’s TED Talk, entitled Confessions of a Depressed Comic, has more than four million views and he’s taken part in the Bell Let’s Talk day to help bring mental illness into the light.

Vic High vice-principal Chris Koutougos, who taught Breel at Lambrick Park, has kept in contact with him over the years and arranged for him to speak at Vic High. Having a young person relay their experiences with depression and solutions to teens is a good way to encourage people to speak up, Koutougos said.

“Part of it is us as a learning community recognizing the importance of understanding depression and understanding suicide, and [Breel’s] story came to mind,” he said.

The feedback on the talk was largely positive.

“He told us stories that helped us understand that this isn’t only about statistics, it’s about real people with real experiences,” said student Ahmina Ibrahim.

“While I don’t struggle with depression, it’s great to hear these stories so that we’re all aware,” added classmate Bridget Laver. “I really enjoyed how he infused humour into his stories to help us understand these important issue. I wish more people could hear his message because I think it could save lives.”

A concept that school staff picked up on was that Breel encouraged students to seek out supports already available in school, even if reaching out is on a friend’s behalf. Some Vic High students have already taken that message to heart, reaching out to school counsellors to have a conversation about where they’re at.

“What I’ve noticed about this building is how caring it is,” said Koutougos, in his second year at Vic High. “Not only the adults, but the kids care for each other and I’ve seen how important that has been to helping individuals be successful.”

Given his notoriety, Breel commands a healthy fee for public speaking, which more often happens at universities or corporate conferences. Given his connection with Koutougos, he agreed to forego his fee if the school would make a donation to a charity aiding youth mental health.

That will end up going to jack.org, a network of young leaders in high schools and post-secondary institutions across Canada working to change the way people think about mental health.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Millstream Road closed to traffic at Bear Mountain Parkway

Downed hydro pole blocking both lanes at Industrial Way

Bike dragged several blocks after hit and run

Wheel-less bike dragged underneath van along Dallas Rd. after cyclist hit

Man arrested at gunpoint outside Vic High

Police were called after he allegedly threatened a teacher with a knife

New bike facility pitched for View Royal Park

Park would encourage more youth to ride

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Someone asked her if she does the work for her son. McBain said: “No, actually. I do it for your son.”

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

Britain gives long-lost Franklin expedition ships to Canada, Inuit

Deeds to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror signed over to Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust

Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in

Three days after rampage, people still gathering at memorial to lay flowers and honour victims

Liberals urged to tax e-commerce services like Netflix

Trudeau has been adamant that his government wouldn’t increase taxes on online subscriptions

Why some B.C. daycares didn’t opt in to subsidy program

Deadline passes for program aimed at laying foundation for universal child care

Charges follow collisions between pickup and police vehicles in Nanaimo

Majore Jackson, 32, and Andrew John Bellwood, 47, from Nanaimo, face numerous charges

Been a long day? Here’s cute puppies in training

Group is training next batch of assistance dogs at Vancouver International Airport

Most Read