The Blue Whale Challenge is going viral, and schools are now issuing warnings against the game that reportedly encourages kids to commit suicide.
The social media challenge reportedly calls on participants to complete a series of tasks over the course of five days. Some are mundane, like watching horror movies, but others include self-harm and ultimately lead to suicide on the final step.
The viral game is now raising alarm at schools across the United States. As 10 News in Denver noted, some local schools are warning parents about the Blue Whale Challenge.
“Denver Public Schools told our sister station KMGH in Denver that it is aware of the viral challenge, but it has not encountered any student participation. District officials have drafted a letter to parents warning them of the game.”
Baldwin County Public Schools in Alabama also reported that the Blue Whale Challenge has made it to local high schools.
“A very dangerous game called The Blue Whale Challenge (or the Blue Whale Game) has been brought to my attention by one of our social workers. It is my understanding that this very dangerous game may have possibly already been introduced on two of our high school campuses,” the district said in a letter shared on its Facebook page. “As shared with me by the social worker, this game or challenge began in Russia, and it is basically a challenge to harm yourself for fifty days, with the intention being to ultimately kill yourself on the fiftieth day.”
There have reportedly been consequences for the person who started the suicide craze. The creator of the Blue Whale Challenge, a 21-year-old Russian man named Phillipp Budeikin, pleaded guilty to encouraging 16 girls to take their lives, Fox 2 Detroit reported.
Reports claim that the Blue Whale Challenge is especially aggressive in encouraging participants to commit suicide. The app “hacks into personal information that administrators use to threaten the player’s family or releases personal information until the player kills themselves,” WKRG reported.
The Blue Whale Challenge is not the first viral craze in recent month to raise alarms about suicide among young adults. Over the course of the last few months, a number of teenagers — and even some pre-teens — have taken their lives and broadcast their final moments on Facebook Live or other video streaming sites.
Experts noted that these videos led to a number of copycat suicides.
“It just seems so frightening, but a lot of behaviors are modeled,” Dr. Madelyn Gould of the New York State Psychiatric Institute told The Daily Beast.
Gould authored research on copycat suicides, noting that they are especially common among teenagers and young adults.
“Heightened newspaper coverage following a young adult’s suicide is significantly linked to subsequent self-inflicted deaths, according to Gould’s research. Her study finds that the more sensational the reporting, the more details provided, and the more prominent the story’s placement, the more likely it was that additional suicides would follow. What’s more, the study reinforces the opinion that irresponsible reporting on suicide overwhelmingly impacts the young. According to another study by the same author, the prevalence of copycat suicide is up to four times higher in young adults than any other age group.”
That is the same trend pushing the Blue Whale Challenge, experts say.
Anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
News outlets in Europe, particularly the U.K., have been reporting on the Blue Whale Challenge for several weeks. Parents and schools there have already taken action to stop the craze, which reportedly led to the death of more than a dozen students where it originated in Russia.
Many more are joining in to put a stop to the Blue Whale Challenge. Both the Apple’s iOS store and Google Play store have deleted the app, WCVB reported.
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