Blue Whale Challenge has now become the grist for the gossip mill, the tech savvy adolescents are often seen ruminating about the same and many of them even try to download this rumoured deadly suicide game from the play store application of their smart phones. Little do they know that it exists only in closed groups and private message conversations. Trying to Google it, discussing the possibilities of downloading it and even mere talking about it is in itself an indication that our adolescents are tempted towards this social network challenge.
It is believed that after anyone accepts the tag to the Blue Whale Challenge, the group administrator hack’s the personal information of the user and assigns him/her a series of disturbing tasks like listening to very depressing music, carving out a specific phrase on the hand, waking up in the middle of the night, watching psychedelic horror videos, making cuts on the whole body, cutting the lips, doing secret tasks, making length wise cuts on the arms, sitting down on a roof with legs dangling over the edge and ultimately the more sinister step of committing suicide. After completion of every task, a video or photographic proof of the completion has to be provided to the administrator.
The game originated from Russia in 2013 and is attributed to Philipp Budeikin, a former psychology student. Budeikin has stated that his purpose was to clean the society by pushing to suicide those he deemed as having no value. As per unconfirmed media reports, about 130 people have lost their lives while winning the game. The psychology behind the blue whale challenge involves finding of victims and creating an emotional bond with them through a stepwise process of control and manipulation, thereby landing them in the death trap in a thrilling manner. True, that everyone who plays it will not go to the extent of committing suicide but at the same time vulnerable sections like those with high suicidal ideation can easily do so. Suicidal ideation involves thoughts about how to kill oneself, which can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration of the same.
Rakhshanda Ahad & Dr. Shawkat Ahmad Shah from Department of Psychology, University of Kashmir, carried out a study on suicidal ideation in 2015 on a sample group of 364 adolescents selected randomly from 9 higher secondary schools of Srinagar district with age ranging from 15 to 17 years. On analysis of data, they found that 14.8% of the participants have high levels of suicide ideation and almost 11% of them had attempted suicide.
Experts in the field believe that the ongoing conflict in the valley directly or indirectly has fuelled the tendencies to suicide among the residents herein. Such an alarming situation combined with the fact that the game has got a wide publicity over the internet gives us a signal to take various preventive measures like proper guidance to youth at the right time, monitoring of their electronic devices by guardians, exploring their signs of distress and taking measure for their amelioration.
As schools are in a more strategic position to provide guidance than colleges and universities, the issue can be raised and explained during the morning assemblies. Very recently, the alert issued by the education department to all the schools is a welcome step in this regard and teachers apart from raising awareness regarding this life threatening game should conscientiously remain vigilant towards picking up the cues regarding the telltale signs of any student taking the challenge. Some corners of thought doubt that discussing the game will lead to its wider publicity but psychiatrists are of the opinion that it has been already discussed threadbare & staying mute on this issue defies logic.
Pertinently, in a bid to shield the vulnerable sections of the society, we need to demystify the blue whale challenge before it turns our faces red. Apart from this in order to build a healthy society there should be joint efforts on behalf of the policy makers and all other stakeholders to initiate research and develop comprehensive frameworks for promotion of mental health in Kashmir, insensitivity towards incorporating research evidences into the policy making is in itself a bigger challenge than the blue whale.
Dr. Muhammad Muzamil Kumar is a psychometrician and an organizational psychologist. Email: email@example.com