On Tuesday, Daniel Desmond Amofah, a gaming YouTuber who went by Etika, was found dead in New York’s East River, according to the NYPD. He was 29 years old.
A hugely popular streamer known for his love of Nintendo, Amofah went missing last week, shortly after posting a YouTube video discussing his suicidal thoughts. The video, titled “I’m Sorry,” was removed by YouTube shortly thereafter for violating its terms of service. (It has since been re-uploaded to the platform by other people, though it is still unavailable on Amofah’s channel.) On Tuesday, his belongings were found near the Manhattan Bridge, and his body was later recovered from Manhattan’s East River. Authorities are classifying Amofah’s death as a suicide by drowning, according to the New York Post.
Amofah had long been vocal about his mental health struggles, and his behavior had grown increasingly erratic in recent months. Last October, his channel was deleted from YouTube after he uploaded pornography, a violation of the platform’s guidelines. Shortly afterwards, he posted a message on Reddit: “And now, it’s my turn to die. I love you all. Keep fighting for me, ok? I’ll miss yall,” he wrote. After the post prompted widespread concern, he issued an apology: “I’m sorry for worrying all of you, I’m sorry for making you all fear that I was suicidal.” He was subsequently also banned from Twitch for using a homophobic slur.
We mourn the loss of Etika, a beloved member of our gaming creator community. All of us at YouTube are sending condolences to his loved ones and fans.
— YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) June 25, 2019
Amofah’s passing has prompted some discussion of mental health issues in the gaming community, with many on Amofah’s subreddit sharing their own mental health struggles in response to his death. Additionally, as some of his fans have pointed out, in the months leading up to Amofah’s passing, several people suggested his erratic behavior as a ploy for attention. Following his October post, for instance, there was speculation that he had been hacked or that the message was a publicity stunt; there was similar skepticism on Twitter following the release of what would prove to be his last video.
While there is no reliable method of predicting or preventing suicide, Amofah’s behavior over the past few months contained all the warning signs, says April Foreman, PhD, a psychologist, suicide prevention expert, and board member at the American Association of Suicidology.
“It was really clear he was escalating…he would talk about pushing people away, he would talk about going through episodes of dysregulation,” she says, using a term for a reduced ability to modulate one’s emotions, resulting in outbursts or unstable behavior. “These are all signs of very serious mental illness, and some people were noticing it, but some people were sort of applauding or watching it as entertainment. It was so heartbreaking knowing what the end of the story was.”
His death has also prompted more than 370,000 fans to sign a Change.org petition campaigning for YouTube to restore his original primary channel, which was deleted in October. “We the YouTube community and the Joycon Boyz [Amofah’s term for his fans] demand that his YouTube channel be reinstated so his legacy can be archived,” the petition states. “Years of memories are gone due to his misconduct of a few uploads, and we think someone who has done so much for the YouTube platform should be allowed to have his greatest moments archived on YouTube forever.”
Foreman also expressed concern that many of Amofah’s fans and fellow streamers might not have sufficient resources to deal with their own mental health issues. “These are people who are often young and male,” Foreman says of Amofah’s fan base. “Remember, these are the folks who as they age, suicide deaths are a very serious public health issue for them.” (It is, in fact, among the leading causes of death for men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.)
In a different aspect,
I can't express how concerned I am for pro players / streamers / influencers' mental health.
The entertainment world is as vicious as it is captivating, and just because you're in an "enjoyable" industry doesn't mean you can't struggle as well.
— Chad Smeltz (@ChadSmeltz) June 25, 2019
While Foreman says that increased discussion of mental health issues within the community could be beneficial, many of the conversations she’s seen in the hours after his death “aren’t particularly well-informed” about mental health, she says. She encouraged platforms like Twitch and YouTube to publicize a list of resources for content creators struggling with such issues, many of whom spend long hours streaming every day in isolation.
“Just as if you had a flu outbreak and you’d remind people to have vaccinations and wash their hands and all this common-sense health advice, I would want [streaming platforms] to do the same thing for Etika’s community,” she says.
Other prominent content creators such as YouTuber Daniel “Keemstar” Keem have campaigned for YouTube to reupload his final video to his channel. “It’s the mans final words. They should not be deleted!,” Keem wrote in a tweet.
Such campaigns, while well-intentioned, are misguided, says Foreman.
I’m speechless, this is actually wild.
RIP Etika. I honestly feel that influencer mental health is something that we need to address more often.
This is tragic. https://t.co/g1ByRj05Lj
— hungrybox ➡️ CEO 2019 (@LiquidHbox) June 25, 2019
“In the brief period of time leading up to suicide or death, people are in an altered state. If Amofah had survived, as most who attempt suicide do, he would have recognized later that his views were distorted, that this was unwell thinking, that he was not doing well. He would not have said or thought some of the things that were happening in that apology video,” Foreman tells Rolling Stone.
Such final messages or “last words” can often put people within a community touched by suicide at increased risk: “I understand the meaning-making about this,” she advised his fans. “But make meaning [of his death] another way and try not to put others at risk.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach out to the Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 confidential text messaging service that provides support to people in crisis when they text 741741.