TED Talks on Mental Health: Depression, Bipolar & Schizophrenia

Many of you will know how much I love watching TED talks. While many are educational, there are just as many that are inspirational and motivating, and I’ve gained an incredible amount from the website.

I’ve listed before the best talks on low self-esteem, anxiety and PTSD, but here I’ll outline three TED talks on mental health that I’ve enjoyed recently. The three I’ve chosen are on depression, bipolar and schizophrenia, although they all say something about mental health as a whole too.

On depression: Kevin Breel – Confessions of a depressed comic

Kevin Breen TED talk on depression
A TED talk on depression by Kevin Breel. Image from TED.

Kevin’s story is very emotional, and it hits home hard for those of us who have experienced depression at any point in our lives. In other words, it resonates with all of us to some degree. This type of TED talk is exactly what society needs right now, as Kevin emphasises that collectively turning a blind eye to depression is precisely why depression is so difficult.

As Kevin puts so eloquently, “It’s not the suffering inside of you, it’s the stigma of others” that stops you from being healthy. Because we don’t see it, we don’t see the severity of it, and this needs to change.

Society’s prescription for depression should be acceptance, or treating depression like any other broken bone or physical ailment. With acceptance of mental illness, social support and healing will follow.

“We are so accepting of any body part breaking down, other than our brain… and that’s ignorance” 

Joshua Walters TED talk on bipolar
A TED talk on bipolar and being ‘just manic enough’ by Joshua Walters. Image from TED.

Probably one of the most eccentric speakers that I’ve ever seen on TED, Joshua Walters has been dealing with bipolar – and a consequent onslaught of medication – since his teenage years.

However, Joshua doesn’t express outright negativity towards his mental illness. Rather, he thinks that progress in the business and creative spheres can come from being “just manic enough”; from using our “mental skilness”. Not everyone will agree with Joshua’s ideas, I’m sure, but it’s refreshing to see a lively and charismatic approach to mental health.

“I could either deny my mental illness… or embrace my mental skilness” 

On schizophrenia: Eleanor Longden – The voices in my head

Eleanor Longden TED talk on schizophrenia
Eleanor Longden talks about “the voices in my head” during this TED talk on schizophrenia. Image from TED.

Eleanor Longden was just an ordinary student, attending lectures and enjoying the fun that came with university, when she started hearing voices. She confided in a friend about this, who persuaded her to talk to the university GP about it. During her appointment, the doctor doodled mindlessly as she related her feelings of low mood and anxiety to him. However, his ears pricked up when she mentioned the recent development. The voices.

Eleanor was drugged, sectioned and labelled schizophrenic, and a low-point followed for her that few of us could ever truly relate to.

However, Eleanor has now earned a BSc and an MSc in psychology, for which she received the highest classifications ever granted by the University of Leeds. Today she is studying for her PhD while lecturing and writing about recovery-oriented approaches to psychosis, dissociation and complex trauma.

Eleanor’s story of recovery was exactly what I needed to hear about. In this talk she emphasises that society should ask, “What’s happened to you?” rather than, “What’s wrong with you?”, and explains that this change would make our attitude towards mental health nourishing and supportive rather than oppressive and discriminative.

Eleanor has also given me the most useful advice I could possibly receive for my ongoing problems with OCD: to listen to my compulsions and realise that they reflect subconscious anxieties and insecurities from my past. When I feel that I need to do something in order to prevent my family being hurt, this reflects the fact that I care deeply for them. Thinking like this makes so much sense, but it’s something that I never could have come up with on my own.

Voice hearing is a “survival strategy, a sane reaction to insane circumstances”

Could a TED talk a day keep the doctor away? If you’ve watched any of the talks I’ve mentioned in this post, let me know in the comments. Also, if you have any talks you think I should add to this list, I’d love to hear from you!


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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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