Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

Ex-YouTube personality opens up on suicide bid

When he was 16, Mr Matthew Wong-Stewart, also known on social media and YouTube as Fish, found himself struggling with mental health issues and tried to take his own life.

But a message from a friend to the former actor of the popular Wah!Banana YouTube channel here made him take a step back.

He realised that he “had so much more to look forward to”, said the 26-year-old, in an emotional video released last Tuesday.

The video was part of non-profit organisation Samaritans of Singapore’s campaign during Suicide Prevention Awareness Week that began on Sept 6.

Mr Stewart, an Australian who moved to Singapore when he was six years old, told The Straits Times last Thursday that he was raised in a family with a sports and military background, and phrases like “boys don’t cry” and “be a man” were normalised at home.

It made it difficult for him to open up about his struggles with his family or at school.

This stigma that boys and men face was what the Samaritans addressed in its suicide prevention campaign last week.

The group said that of the 400 suicide cases recorded here last year, two out of three people were male. This trend was consistent with observations in previous years.

The figure is a cause for concern, and the Samaritans said that it points to an underlying societal issue – stereotypes which stop boys and men from expressing their emotions and struggles.

“Men who show the slightest sign of weakness are met with judgment and prejudice, creating a psychological barrier that prevents them from opening up to those around them,” it said.

Its campaign this year, called #SuicideSeesNoGender, includes two video clips of men – including Mr Stewart – and their partners talking about the difficulties they faced. The clips also encourage viewers to seek help and share their troubles.

For Mr Stewart, who was a Wah!Banana actor from 2013 to 2016 and is known for his e-sports commentary work, the helplines he found in his secondary school handbook in his youth helped him greatly.


Samaritans of Singapore:


Singapore Association for Mental Health:


Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service:


Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin):


Silver Ribbon:


Tinkle Friend:


He decided to call one of them and was relieved that the person on the line did not judge him for expressing his emotions.

According to Mr Stewart’s Facebook post in which he shared the Samaritans’ video, he sought therapy from the age of 22 after being encouraged by his peers and mentors.

Now married to a Singaporean, Mr Stewart is the community and channel lead for South-east Asia at video game company Riot Games in Singapore.

“I have this platform to share my story,” he told ST of his role in the campaign.

“If even one person hears my story and it helps them come to terms with how they feel, I would be incredibly happy.”

The Samaritans also noted that amid the Covid-19 pandemic, stress levels are on the rise among Singaporeans. “The economic downturn, rising unemployment rates coupled with reduced social interactions and feelings of uncertainty have created an urgent need to encourage open conversations about our struggles,” it said.

The Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) said it saw a 49 per cent increase in callers to its helpline and an increase of about 15 per cent in those experiencing mental health issues during the two-month circuit breaker which began in early April, compared with the same period last year.

SAMH said that it attended to at least 10 cases with suicide ideation during the circuit breaker period.

Among the youth SAMH reaches out to, issues leading to suicidal thoughts include those related to relationships, academic or work stress, and coping with one’s mental health.

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