Knowing the Signs
Students and parents have a chance to better understand teenage depression and how to handle it
Writer / Suz Huntzinger
In July of 2013, the lives of Mike Riekhof and his family changed forever. Mike’s daughter, Peyton, who battled teenage depression, ended her life at the age 18, just one month shy of going away to college at Kansas University. Instead of holding the enormous burden of grief inside, Mike and his family created The Peyton Riekhof Foundation to spread awareness about teenage depression. “I’m no expert,” said Mike. “I’m just a dad who lost his daughter and I’m using this format to save others. If I can spread the word and save one life, this will all be worth it.”
As many parents of teens would agree, teens tend to deal with challenges by holding it inside. “That’s what Peyton did and I want kids to know they don’t have to. It’s ok to talk about,” Mike said. To help him spread the word, he and the foundation have enlisted the help of well-known motivational speaker and sufferer of teenage depression Kevin Breel. Mike found Breel about two months after Peyton’s passing when he started to hear about “TED Talks.” TED Talks, from the non-profit organization, are aimed at spreading ideas worth talking about. The idea began after a 1984 conference dealing with topics on Technology, Entertainment and Design. Today, these talks cover all topics from around the world. Many of these short “TED talks” are available on YouTube, and that’s where Mike found Kevin. Breel has appeared on the “Today Show” and MTV. He’s spoken at Harvard and at the United Nations.
“Kevin’s message is so powerful because he lived it,” said Mike. “He was an athlete at the top of his game, but he was suffering from depression. So, he found a way to hide it, holding it in day after day, masking it through humor. Until one day he decided he needed to tell someone.” Now Breel travels the circuit delivering his powerful message through humor and compassion.
A guest last year at Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers High Schools, Breel is back to deliver his message to those schools and Cathedral High School. The junior classes of HSE and Fishers high schools will listen to Breel Monday, March 2, in the morning. Those presentations will be closed to the public. Later that evening, Breel will give a shortened version of his presentation during a community program open to anyone interested at Fishers High School from 6 -8:30. Breel’s presentation will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session. Before and after the presentation and panel discussion, there will be time for the public to interact with representatives from more than 15 different local organizations. Guests can visit the individual tables, talk with a representative, and grab helpful resource materials and handouts. Last year, the community presentation drew in a crowd of more than 500 people.
Cathedral High School, still mourning the loss of two of its students last year from teen suicide, will hear Breel’s message Tuesday, March 3. The entire student body along with their parents will attend the presentation in the morning. Then in the evening, Cathedral will hold an adults only presentation, “Finding Hope: Understanding Adolescent Mental Health,” featuring Dawn Crossman of The Center for Hope. The goal of this program is to help parents understand and deal with the struggles and issues facing our youth. Crossman will address important topics like the warning signs of depression, what to do, when to medicate, how to approach it from a spiritual perspective, best practices and more.
Riekhof wants people to aware of what could happen. “Suicide is a permanent consequence of mental health,” he said. “But there is hope. Don’t brush it off.”