Today’s TEDx Talk: An app that could change your vote

Most Americans vote against their financial self-interest, says Nikita Bier — not because they prioritize social issues, but because there’s a widespread ignorance of public policy. At TEDxBoston, he demos Outline, an interactive program which shows you how different policies would affect your personal finances. The app could very well change your next vote. (Filmed at TEDxBoston)

Each week, we choose four of our favorite talks, highlighting just a few of the enlightening speakers from the TEDx community, and its diverse constellation of ideas worth spreading. Browse all TEDxTalks here »

Confessions of a depressed comic: Talking to Kevin Breel

As a teenager, Kevin Breel almost took his own life. His story — so powerfully told in his viral TEDx talk, “Confessions of a Depressed Comic” — gives voice to an often silent struggle and offers a message of hope. 

In honor of Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day, we spoke with Kevin about living with depression and speaking out. See his original talk, followed by our conversation:

As you say in your talk, people are often afraid to admit they feel depressed. What helped you come forward and speak up about living with depression? 

I got to a point where I no longer felt afraid of who I was or the fact that I deal with depression. I no longer felt ashamed or embarrassed by it. It can be really hard and exhausting to keep sharing my story onstage, but ultimately, I know that has the potential to help people. And that’s all that matters to me.

How have people reacted? 

The reaction has been the most amazing part of speaking at TEDx. When the video first went viral, I remember checking my email one time, and I had almost two thousand new emails out of nowhere. The one that stuck with me most was from one girl who sent me an email with her suicide note attached. She said she had watched my talk and she didn’t need it anymore. That was pretty powerful. And I think if you go look at the video right now, the top comment is, “This talk is the reason I put my razor down.” That’s so amazing to me. I really couldn’t ask for more.  

There’s a lovely moment in your talk when you say that hurt has forced you to have hope. When you’re in pain and hope is hard to find, how do you remind yourself that it’s still there? 

When I’m dealing with pain, I keep reminding myself that hope and help are always available for me; I just have to choose to reach for them. That’s really hard, but it keeps me accountable. I never used to have that perspective. I used to really personally identify with my pain, and I wanted to stay stuck in that place of hurt because it had become a comfortable place to stay. Now, I realize that being mentally healthy is just like being physically healthy; it takes work. You have to take preventive measures, you have to make sure you are checking in with yourself, you have to make sure you are doing the work. And it is work. But it’s worth it.  

During your darkest times, was there someone who reached out to you? Someone you remember, a moment that stayed with you and helped you find the light? 

Yeah, definitely. It was actually just a quote that I read one time. It was by Carl Jung, and it said, “Sure, a tree can grow to heaven. But only if its roots go to hell.” I remember how that made me feel a sense of peace for the first time in a long time. It made me reframe the way I looked at my pain and my struggle. For the first time ever, I thought, “Maybe this is giving me something. Maybe this is showing me some depth in life. Maybe this isn’t all bad.” And that changed everything. I’m very thankful for that quote to this day.

In the spirit of Suicide Prevention Day, what can people do to help friends or family who are suffering from depression or considering suicide? 

If you feel like a friend or a family member is struggling, think about how you can reach out to them with kindness and empathy before you think of what you should say. Letting them know that they are not alone and they are loved can truly save a life. They won’t hear your words at first; they will only feel your presence. But it all starts with someone who cares enough to ask, “Are you okay?” Please, do not be afraid to ask that question. Ask your friend. Ask a family member. Ask yourself. And be okay with whatever the answers are.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please see the following resources: 

International Association for Suicide Prevention

To Write Love on Her Arms

Today’s TEDx Talk: A better democracy will need a better press: Lord David Puttnam at TEDxHousesofParliament

Bad journalism, with its cynical storytelling, damages democracy; at best, disengaging citizens from active politics and, at worst, leaving them haplessly misinformed. With an understated and clear voice, Lord David Puttnam calls on us to challenge a culture of negligence by reconsidering our notions about how to balance the freedom of expression (and the freedom to unscrupulously chase profit) with the press’s moral imperative to serve democracy (Filmed at TEDxHousesofParliament)

Each week, we choose four of our favorite talks, highlighting just a few of the enlightening speakers from the TEDx community, and its diverse constellation of ideas worth spreading. Browse all TEDxTalks here »

The truth needs better marketing: Eli Pariser at TEDxPoynterInstitute

Right now, people have access to more news sources than ever before, but do we really know what’s going on in the world? Eli Parser, founder of Upworthy, believes that serious news needs a serious makeover, and at TEDxPoynterInstitute, he explains his ideas to make reading meaningful news more appealing. (Filmed at TEDxPoynterInstitute)

Each week, we choose four of our favorite talks, highlighting just a few of the enlightening speakers from the TEDx community, and its diverse constellation of ideas worth spreading. Browse all TEDxTalks here »