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Actor Tosh Zhang opens up about personal struggle with depression

“It’s tough. Nobody wants to be depressed. Nobody wants to take their own life,” he said, after revealing that he’s also grappled with suicidal thoughts.

Local actor-musician Tosh Zhang recently shared about his personal struggle with depression in a new season of Quan Yifeng’s talk show Hear U Out.

In a two-part interview released on Friday (Jul 16), Zhang and his Ah Boys To Men co-star Wang Weiliang opened up in a brutally honest conversation on the lowest points in their lives, during which Zhang revealed that he has been grappling with depression for the past six years.

"My depression stems from childhood trauma," he shared. "When I was younger, I saw and felt some things that children shouldn't have to experience. I had a negative family environment, my parents were always quarrelling and sometimes it got so bad that someone would be hospitalised.”

“Every day, I’d go home feeling very scared. My younger sister would cry out of fear (whenever something happened), so I felt I had to be strong. If I wasn’t, I was afraid that my sister and mum would cry. My father couldn’t cope either. If I also broke down, my whole family would collapse,” the actor continued as he began to tear up.

Years on, Zhang recalled that certain memories would trigger severe depressive episodes that sometimes led to suicidal thoughts.

“Certain things will remind me of the past, and those memories will make me cry uncontrollably. I even thought of jumping off a building. I can’t suppress (the negative thoughts) and they still haunt me now.”

However, since signs of his depression surfaced in 2016, Zhang has been taking steps to recover.

“I’m in a better place now but it’s not easy to recover from depression,” admitted the 32-year-old. "My psychiatrist told me I have to address my inner child, that is, the child in me. If I push him aside and fail to comfort him and assure him that everything is fine now, he’ll keep crying.”

Despite his progress, Zhang’s healing process has been far from rosy.

“I sought treatment for at least a year. I was in and out of the hospital. I've had meltdowns at home where I wanted to commit suicide. I couldn’t feel my face and my hands were numb. When I called my doctor, he said that I could be hyperventilating and was at risk of getting a stroke, so he told me to call an ambulance,” the actor recounted. “My mother realised what was happening as she accompanied me to the hospital. After realising, she cried by my bedside.”

As his long-time friend and confidant, Wang weighed in: “I don’t know much about depression, but I’ve seen him in a vulnerable and pitiful state before. Initially I didn’t understand why a person could change so drastically within a second… He’s my brother for life, I’ll keep him company if he has meltdowns.”

Zhang’s discussion on this issue is timely, as Singapore faces an increase in the number of suicides amid the isolation and psychological distress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s tough. Nobody wants to be depressed. Nobody wants to take their own life,” he acknowledged.

Best known for his role in Jack Neo’s Ah Boys To Men, Zhang recently starred in Gangster Nurse, a drama series that touches on the pandemic. Earlier this year, the local actor also opened a streetwear shop in Queensway Shopping Centre with a few childhood friends.

Watch the interview here

Where to get help: 

Samaritans of Singapore Hotline: 1800 221 4444

Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline: 6389 2222

Singapore Association of Mental Health Helpline: 1800 283 7019

You can also find a list of international helplines here. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.

Source: CNA/sr