Brian Copeland

Adversity: Suffered bouts of severe depression

Advocacy: Developed a powerful one-man show about his battles

“The only way that we can collectively deal with this disease as a society is by removing the stigma surrounding it. That means openly talking about depression and mental illness. I’ve made it my mission to start the conversation.”

Brian Copeland’s A2A story is no laughing matter. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true: his journey from adversity to advocacy has indeed involved a lot of laughter, just not his own. An immensely talented comedian, Brian has been making people laugh his entire life–even during his battles with debilitating depression, one of which nearly cost him everything. It was 2007, and Brian was at the top of his game. His critically acclaimed one man show, NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN, was selling out week after week in San Francisco and elsewhere; his bestselling book of the same name was being used in classrooms to teach children about racial prejudice and injustice; and his Northern California radio and TV talk-shows were hugely popular. But then a “perfect storm” of life challenges hit: his wife left him, his grandmother (who’d raised him) died, and a serious car accident left him all but paralyzed. Brian, who had wrestled with depression for decades, was at his wits’ end. In a moment of desperation, he found himself inside a local gun shop, attempting to buy a gun with which he planned to take his life.

Fortunately for Brian–and for all of us!–Brian couldn’t buy a gun that day. Instead he learned he’d have to wait ten days before he could bring it home. During that seemingly interminable stretch, he searched desperately for reasons to live. Among those he found: the opportunity to use his own gifts to help others navigate the perils of depression. He began making notes for a one-man show about his experiences. And when he learned about a 15-year-old family friend who’d committed suicide, Brian knew he had to bring his own story to life on the stage. He developed, produced, and began starring in THE WAITING PERIOD, which played at San Francisco’s Marsh Theater. Critics cheered; audiences laughed and cried and were moved forever; the mental health world gained a powerful advocate; and Brian began getting a taste of how we help ourselves by helping others.

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