Shy AA founder Zach Ricker, left, and mental health activist and TED Talk sensation Kevin Breel hold a short question-and-answer period after the talk on Sunday. (DHI Media/Nancy Spencer)
Shy AA founder Zach Ricker, left, and mental health activist and TED Talk sensation Kevin Breel hold a short question-and-answer period after the talk on Sunday. (DHI Media/Nancy Spencer)
DELPHOS — Kevin Breel had gotten so good at hiding behind a smile, being upbeat and showing interest in others he realized no one really knew him.

“I didn’t even know myself,” the Ted Talks sensation said Sunday evening to a light crowd in Jefferson Middle School Auditorium. “I thought, is his ever going to change? Is there any more? If I can’t change this, maybe I should end it.”

That was the first time Breel was suicidal. He would continue to have that thought creep in every so often, then once a month, then once a week, then every day.

“On Feb. 26, 2011, I wrote a suicide note,” Breel said. “I was never honest, I was struggling and everything was lies. I realized nobody knows any of these things about me.”

Then other thoughts moved in.

“What would happen if I did everything the opposite? What if every time I would normally lie I would be honest; when I would normally push someone away, I would pull them in,” Breel said.

So he committed to having one real conversation about what he was feeling with someone he loved — his mother.

“It gave me an enormous sense of power. She was super nice and encouraging,” Breel said. “She said, ‘If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t be telling me this. You would just go to a doctor. You need to take care of your mental health’.”

Breel started seeing a counselor — one with, according to Breel — a cool European accent. He admitted he didn’t want to accept his life any more and didn’t want to be suicidal.

“He told me to keep coming and to be honest,” Breel said. “Pretty simple.”

In a year, Breel was in a completely different place in his life. Then a girl, Amber, died by suicide.

“There was a video of her with cue cards and she didn’t say a word, she just flipped the cards,” Breel said. “She felt alone, isolated and couldn’t talk about it. It was devastating to see her life over — a statistic.”

His counselor agreed that is was a terrible tragedy and that it happened every 30 seconds in the United States. He asked Breel what he was going to do about it. While many don’t want to talk about depression, doing just that is what saved Breel. So he started talking about it online.

“The thing that strikes me the most is that it really doesn’t matter what I say, it’s just that I’m saying something,” Breel said. “So many people feel so alone. We all just want to be heard, understood, accepted and loved.

“Will I be depressed again? Yes. Will I handle it? Yes. I have the tools to deal with it. I just want to share my story and hope it finds someone. I hope it’s a mirror for someone. We all need to figure out who we want to be and who we want to love.”

Breel was brought to Delphos for the first-ever “Keep the Conversation Going” event sponsored by S.H.Y.A.A. and the Matt Ulrich Foundation. 2012 Jefferson graduate Zach Ricker started the conversation last year when he came forward to share his struggle with depression after several teen suicides in Delphos.

At the end of the evening, Ricker and Breel held a short question-and-answer session, mainly affirming that talking to someone about what is going on in your life is crucial.

“The more we talk, the more clarity we have and the more good things happen in our culture,” Breel concluded.