Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

It has been more than one year since a 40-ft mural was installed to honor video game streamer Desmond “Etika” Amofah in Brooklyn, N.Y. Amofah died by suicide last year. I recently talked to Amofah’s friends, Christine Cardona (“Alice Pika”) and Double A. Cardona is a Brooklyn-based video game streamer, cosplayer and content creator. Cardona also dated Amofah. Queens-based Double A is the Project Director of the mural and is also a system administrator.

Christine Cardona (“Alice Pika”) was not only a close friend of Amofah, but also his former girlfriend.
Photo courtesy Christine Cardona
Double A is the Project Director of the Etika mural.
Photo courtesy Double A

Habiba Abudu (HA): What is the impact of the Etika mural?

Christine Cardona (CC): I think the mural gave Etika’s fans a proper place to mourn and pay respect to him, while also celebrating his life. I’m so happy to know the wallcovering hasn’t been violated with graffiti, it really shows the amount of respect his fans have for him.

Double A (DA): It has brought people together to honor the man who gave us happiness and entertainment for years. It’s a place for his fans, friends and family to celebrate his legacy. It has brought closure for many who knew Desmond and wanted to pay their respects.

HA: Do you think there has been any strides in mental illness since the creation of the mural?

CC: Absolutely. I think fans took special care of themselves during this coronavirus season because of what can happen if they neglect their mental health.

DA: Absolutely, many people started opening up about their own battle with mental health. Personally, I’ve been afraid to confront and seek help for my issues for years. Recently, I’ve been seeing a therapist and doctor to help in these areas. Something I wouldn’t have done alone.

HA: Many streamers struggle with mental illness do you think there are enough support mechanisms from places like YouTube and Twitch?

CC: There are several educational YouTube and Twitch channels that discuss mental health; but mental health support mechanisms from these companies to their employees, I’d say is non-existent. There can be free mental healthcare for all but it takes the individual to acknowledge his or her need for help and willingness to get better.

DA: No. These platforms have done very little to support their creators. It’s a sad reality, but hopefully these companies will offer mental health aid.

HA: A year later there are still several suicides in the streamer/gaming community what do you think the reason that is for? 

CC: I think this question is insensitive, so I will not be answering that.

DA: Mental health still isn’t taken seriously in America. People online like to joke about the problems people are facing mentally and it’s sad. The gaming community can have sectors that’s extremely toxic.

Many people online don’t realize that person on the other end is a human who is trying to survive this world. They are desensitized to the consequences of their actions.

A 40-ft mural was installed in Brooklyn, N.Y. last year, to honor deceased video game streamer Desmond “Etika” Amofah. Photo courtesy Double A

HA: What can platforms such as Twitch and YouTube do to increase its mental health support for their creators?

CC: They could offer discounts or free online counseling to their creators. Maybe they can work with creators to promote such a service by letting them share experiences through the counseling offered.

DA: They should have a mental health crisis team. They should offer support to their creators and not just post a vague link or toll-free number. When I worked in a hospital, we had a mental health crisis team; they tackled issues and provided support. These websites are aware of the problems they have on their platforms but do very little to provide support.

There’s people who love and care about you. You will overcome this fight, and it’ll be worth it.

Double A

HA: As for those who see behaviour that’s atypical of a creator—such as during a livestream, what can they do to get that person help? 

CC: This question is difficult to answer.

DA: That’s a hard question to answer because everyone’s struggles are unique. Most creators have a group of friends they interact with online. It’s probably best to reach out to one of them (on social media through a direct message) if you’e worried and uncertain of what’s going on.

HA: Do you have any tips to provide to those struggling with mental illness?

CC: Therapy isn’t nearly as difficult as some people try to make it seem. My sessions are on Mondays for 30 minutes and it passes by quickly; I feel ready to start the week at the end of each appointment. 

Amofah and Cardona together. Photo courtesy Christine Cardona

Modern medicine is constantly improving. If you’re prescribed medicine by a psychiatrist, please consider taking it. Also, don’t be afraid of sharing any doubts you may have with your doctor because they’re trying to help you.

Life always finds a way to bring light into our darkest moments. From my experience, life truly does get better, even when we don’t believe it ourselves. Please stick around to see for yourself so you can celebrate that triumph.

DA: Yes, please reach out to someone—anyone. It’s ok to seek out help. Your life means so much to many around you. You may feel alone but you don’t have to be. There’s people who love and care about you. You will overcome this fight, and it’ll be worth it.

* This article has been edited for clarity and length.

Subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis