(WIAT) — For most of 2017, whispers of the online suicide “game,” Blue Whale, have sparked anxiety and worry in parents across the globe.
The phenomenon has been linked to dozens of suicides, mostly teenagers, overseas. However, there is no proof that there is a connection between the Blue Whale Challenge and teen suicides, or that the game exists in an organized way.
According to reports from international law enforcement, the game works when teenagers tag or challenge each other to play, then reach out for the advice of a so-called curator, or a taskmaker. That person will then assign the player tasks, one a day, for fifty consecutive days.
The assignments get darker and more extreme over time, starting off with tasks such as waking up at 4:20 a.m. to watch horror movies or listen to scary music, before escalating to self-harm or killing animals.
Reports from people who professed to play the game say they are told they cannot quit or risk harm to their families, or release of humiliating information and photos. Taskmakers instruct users to send them photos to prove they mutilated their bodies. The last task is suicide.
“If I’m already in a bad place as a teen and I reach out to my peers and they don’t give me that support, that positive support that I’m looking for, they tell me just go ahead and do it, you know, the teen on the other side, the hopeless and helpless feelings increase,” Dr. Terra Griffin said.
Many mental health professionals say the risk is mostly for teens who are already predisposed to depression and suicidal thoughts, possibly encouraging them to follow through on their darkest thoughts.
“I think that it increases the risk, I do. Again, because they’re not fully developed,” said Bette Nix, who works with children in Shelby County Schools. “It’s online, it’s there, they think it’s gospel to them. It’s true. And if someone is telling them online to do it, I think it’s going to increase that.”
Parents are urged to watch their children’s social media habits and be aware of them using hashtags or code words connected with the game.