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

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

depressionmental illness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health has confirmed the first long term care facility outbreak in Greater Victoria at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich. (Google Maps)
Island Health records first long-term care COVID outbreak in Greater Victoria

Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich confirms one positive staff member

Itty, a Siamese cat, has been missing since a house fire in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood on Friday, Nov. 27. Her owner says she has white fur with blonde and grey markings. (Facebook/ROAM)
Cat goes missing after house fire in Fernwood neighbourhood

‘Itty’ has white fur, blonde and grey markings and blue eyes

Westcoast Impressions plans to organize a COVID-19 friendly version of the event in 2021 at the Mary Winspear Centre after having cancelled the 2020 version against the backdrop of pandemic. The opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market featured more than 150 vendors lined along Beacon Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney Street Market plans for 2021 return at Mary Winspear Centre

Tentative plan calls for the event’s return to Beacon Avenue after COVID-19 pandemic

An aerial view over Oak Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
An aerial view over Oak Bay and the Marina. Oak Bay residents pay the highest taxes on Vancouver Island. Don Denton/Black Press
Oak Bay secondary suites study considers units old and new

Secondary suites draft report due in new year

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

Most Read