Note: This is a little PSA about the Blue Whale Challenge. It is time-sensitive. Regular MHM posting will continue as normal next week.
If you read the book or seen the movie “Nerve,” you might have a better idea of what I’m talking about.
In the movie, starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, there’s an online game called Nerve, in which people can either be a viewer or a player. As a viewer, your job is simply to watch. As a player, you’re given a set of tasks to complete by the game admins, and the more you complete (and the crazier the task), the more rewards you receive.
When a player reaches the tasks with the most to gain, the risks are higher. If you fail to complete a task, the administrators will use information they’ve gathered to harm you (i.e.: depleting your bank account and the accounts of your immediate family members). They claim to have knowledge about you that could ruin your family’s lives in order to pressure you into continuing. The climax of the story is the final three players are forced to duke it out in a match to the death.
The Blue Whale Challenge, which has been circulating around since at least 2013, is a similar game; the difference is it’s real.
The challenge consists of 50 tasks that take place over 50 days; tasks are given by a curator to each participant with the goal of players becoming a “blue whale,” which was inspired by the way whales seem to beach themselves on purpose.
I won’t go into lengthy detail about the tasks—though they can be found online—but some include regular chats with the curator, self harm and, the final task, committing suicide.
Some news reports have claimed that this game, thought to be a downloadable app, was being passed around social media, from Facebook to Snapchat to Instagram. A quick Google search and checking in with Snopes will tell you there’s no proof of this. But, the game is thought to have originated in Russia due to its original use of VKontakte, or VK, which is the largest European social media and networking service and the most popular website in Russia.
Two Russian men, Philipp Budeikin, 22, and Ilya Sidorov, 26, were arrested in May and June respectively. Budeikin plead guilty to “charges of inciting at least 16 teenage girls to kill themselves by taking part in his ‘game,’ “ according to the BBC. He was quoted as calling his victims “biological waste” and “represented no value to society.”
Sidorov reportedly confessed to conceiving and creating the game and allegedly, after interrogation, admitted to administering the game.
A police spokeswoman was quoted by the New York Post and said “The suspect clarified that he is the administrator of a so-called suicide group that had 32 members, all of them underage. He assigned them tasks aimed at injuring themselves in order to incite suicide.”
The Blue Whale Challenge is reportedly linked to at least 130 teen deaths, according to Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta.
Blogger Steve Higgins, who runs higgypop.com, has done some extensive research into the game and even went as far as creating a “Start the Game” button, which took users to a questionnaire that asked why they decided to click.
Nearly 10 percent of Higgins’ readers clicked to “play” the game, and responses to his question varied from “trolling” the creator to genuinely wanting to die and play the game.
Please be aware and keep an eye out. If you or someone you know has heard about, talked about or is playing the Blue Whale Challenge, please connect them with a professional. Mental health is not a game; suicide is not a game.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-799-4889 for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and 1-888-628-9454 para Español). All calls are free and confidential. You can chat live at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Take care, friends.