Confessions of a Depressed Comic isn’t your typical comedy act.
Kevin Breel, a 21-year-old writer, stand up comic and mental health activist received applause as he took the stage at Humber College.
Dressed in a black bomber jacket, grey t-shirt and jeans, he blended in with any other student on campus.
Breel didn’t begin by cracking jokes. Instead, he spoke openly of his experience with depression.
As a young kid, Breel said he was familiar with feeling helpless.
“I felt like I didn’t have a reason, or a purpose, or a why to wake up and face the world,” he said.
Born into a dysfunctional home plagued with alcoholism, addiction and mental health issues, Breel said he retreated into a shell and felt trapped.
“I can’t quit on myself if I never tried to help myself,” he said.
This was the conclusion he came to after writing his suicide note at 17. This thought stuck with him as he considered all the things he felt were overpowering his life.
After writing them down on a piece of paper, he felt a sense of freedom that prevented him from following through.
It led him to getting help from a counselor who first suggested to him to share his story.
But it wasn’t until B.C. teen Amanda Todd took her own life that Breel reached a turning point. He said it was an eye-opening experience that led him to a series of decisions that have now placed him at North campus, sharing his story with Humber students.
“We never had someone come and talk to us in school,” said Breel. “Mental health wasn’t really ever a topic that was on our campus… that anyone really shared anything about.”
Through Confessions of a Depressed Comic, Breel is now part of Humber’s initiative to change this.
Students can expect more events and activities for Mental Health Awareness Month throughout February, including an Instagram contest and Bounce Forward, which encourages students to share their experiences with mental health issues and how they were able to overcome them.
All these initiatives are an effort to encourage an open dialogue and lose the stigmas associated with mental health.
“I feel that every student to some capacity has experienced mental health issues,” said Candace Pellew, vice-president of Student Affairs at Lakeshore. “It’s good because it helps get the word out there, helps them feel more comfortable talking about this subject.”
For students struggling with mental health issues, Counselling Services is an option open to all full-time current students at both Humber and Guelph-Humber, said Student Engagement and Success Representative Keith Manalo in an email.
“It is completely free and confidential,” he wrote. “Students who may be experiencing issues with mental health may also tap into Accessible Learning Services and the Health Centre.”
Students are also recommended to take advantage of Good2Talk, an external resource that offers free, confidential and 24/7 over-the-phone personal counseling.