Matthew Jean-Leger, 24, took his life five
years ago. His sister Woodney Pierre found
him one morning in his room when she
went to go get him for breakfast. Matthew
was an employed, vibrant, life-of-the-party
young man in a successful band, Five Aces,
that was getting ready to release their first
album that year, Dirty Funk.
His signs of mental health problems were
not obvious. “We thought his oversleeping
was because he was trying to catch up on
sleep from work and with his band, but
he was actually isolating himself,” says
Woodney. “It felt like he was going through
a phase so we didn’t think anything of it.”
Woodney recently sat down with long-time
friend and senior editor of LIM, Crileidy
Liriano, to discuss Matthew’s story.
Did Matthew show any signs of mental
Woodney At the time, no. But looking back
we were able to see a few symptoms. He was
a bit moody. Noticing he was a bit down, my
mom decided to send him on a trip, hoping
that the change of scenery would give him a
fresh start and perspective.
Did he express why he was down?
Woodney No, he didn’t. When we asked
him, he would say he was fine and would get
annoyed when we would ask.
How did the situation affect you?
Woodney I ended up suffering with Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and
clinical depression. It affected me at work
and my day-to-day relationships. I went
through serious mood swings, isolating
myself, panic attacks and insomnia. Within
the first week of his passing I went from
a size 6 to a size 0 and my hair fell out! I
couldn’t do daily simple tasks anymore. I
didn’t realize it was because I was suffering
with PTSD and depression.
Did it affect your relationship with your
Woodney It did at first. We did a bit of
counselling, but then stopped. Everyone
processed it individually, but
now it has allowed us to try to
grow even stronger together.
We are still processing it, and
we will never forget what
happened. It’s important
to talk to others about it,
because although someone
may seem happy they may be
battling some form of mental
health issue. Some suffer
in silence and give others
no reason to suspect, while
others may show signs. Either
way there’s a stigma around
the topic but it should be
discussed. Unfortunately, it’s
easy to dismiss someone who
may be suffering with any
form of it.
What’s the Matty Jae Youth
Woodney I founded this
organization after his passing.
I wanted to encompass who I
thought he was – the arts because he was an
artist, mentorship because he loved looking
out for others, and mental health by sharing
his story and creating a platform where
people are able to have a conversation
about it. Every year on his birthday we
host a fundraiser to raise mental health
awareness. We have a partnership with
Evergreen, which is part of the Yonge Street
Mission, Viva Haiti, and Stepstones for
Youth, which deals with young girls in the
foster care system. This event has been part
of my family’s healing process as we get to
celebrate his life and anyone who may have
been affected directly or indirectly with any
form of mental health and/or suicide.
Do you have any advice for teens or young
adults who may be suffering with mental
Woodney The important part is to reach out
to someone. It may seem like the hardest
thing, but whether it’s a friend, church
or hotline, I encourage you to take that
step. If you’re the individual who someone
approaches, it’s important to not dismiss
that person and to take time to listen to
him or her. See if there’s external help you
can direct them to. Reach out and shine
The Matty Jae Youth Foundation will have
its fifth annual celebration April 30, 2017
at Posh Supper Club in Toronto. There will
be a live band, a DJ, special performances,
a photo booth and lots of fun. For more
information, visit www.mattyjaeyouth.com.
*If you are suffering with mental health please
speak to your family physician to get help.
Advice to youth/young adults? Tomorrow is not
promised, so give your life to Christ today!