Mr Matthew Wong-Stewart shared his struggles for Samaritans of Singapore's campaign.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

Helping boys and men express their mental struggles

Former YouTube actor opens up on his mental health issues


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 (SOS) campaign during Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, which 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 such as "boys don't cry" and "be a man" were normalised at home.

It made it difficult for him to share his struggles with his family or at school.

This stigma that boys and men face is what SOS was trying to address in its suicide prevention campaign last week.

SOS 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 SOS 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," SOS 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.

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

According to Mr Stewart's post on Facebook, in which he shared the SOS 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."

SOS also noted that amid the Covid-19 outbreak, 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.


Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788