Today children and teenagers prefer to spend time on their phones rather than outdoors. As a consequence, they are more likely to have problems such as depression, sadness, loneliness, despair and so on. It is best to take help from experts to deal with these issues. However, sometimes, people go to extreme lengths to resolve this issue, or so they think.
One such attempt was made by Philippe Budeikin, 21, a third-year “Psychology” student, who was expelled from his university, and then introduced the ‘BLUE WHALE CHALLENGE‘, which was his attempt to pull out ‘depressed’ people from the society permanently by instigating them to commit suicide. It is so called because people are lead to believe that whales wash up on shores to commit suicide. In a chilling interview in St. Petersburg, Philippe Budeikin asserted that it began in 2013 when he created “F57” one of the names of the “death groups” on VKontakte, a highly used social networking site in Russia. This group caused its first suicide in 2015. The presence of this group came to light on May 16, 2016, when an independent Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, claimed the existence of “death groups” on Vkontakte, that were inciting young teens into committing suicide. The story was based on the research of a mother, whose 12-year-old daughter had committed suicide, into the online activity of her dead child and who wanted to share the information to prevent further tragedies. According to this report, there were about 130 known adolescent suicides in Russia between November 2015 and April 2016 and a majority of these children, who took their life, were part of the same social media groups on the internet— the death groups. This deathly game is not restricted to Russia alone. About 130 suicides linked to the game have taken place in America, Russia, England, and Italy.
How does the game work? After signing up for the game, the player is assigned an administrator who provides a task daily and of which they must send photographic proof on completion. In the initial phase, the tasks assigned are simple enough, such as watching a horror movie or waking up at odd times but eventually they are told to inflict harm upon themselves by carving on their bodies with a razor and poking hand with a needle. On the 50th and final day, they are asked to kill themselves. Those who wish to back out, are terrorized by the administrator, who claims to possess complete information about them and their families and threatens to harm them. Thus, the victims are left with no choice, but to follow through.
Budeikin, answering the question that how did he get to the point of pushing people to suicide, said that, “These are those who do not represent any value to society and are or will only bring harm to society. I cleaned our society from such people”. He also revealed that he has a bipolar personality disorder, and it is connected with his difficult childhood. He was often beaten in the street by his elder brother and mother. Anton Breido, a senior official from the Investigative Committee, said that Budeikin had been friendless at school and that his mother had little time for him because she had a long commute to and from work. “He didn’t show do well at studies. After classes, he spent all hours online.” He barely saw his mother. “So a person who never built any connection with anyone suddenly felt that he was in charge of other people’s wills and lives.”
Manpreet, a young boy in Maharashtra committed suicide and became the first victim of the game in India. This was followed by an incident where a 13-year-old boy tried to jump off a window from the third floor of his school building in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore and a businessman’s 14-year-old son who left his home in Maharashtra’s Solapur to complete a “Blue Whale” task. He was found by the police on a bus to Pune. During the Monsoon Session of Rajya Sabha, raising this issue during the Zero Hour, members urged to make provisions to remove such life threatening games from the websites. Udbhav Tiwari from Centre for Internet and Society said that “Since there is no application or one specific website for the challenge, it can’t really be banned — not unless you completely ban the internet”.
Now the question is what propels young children to play these games?
Dr. Sapna Zarwal, a Delhi-based child psychologist, identifies two types of children who are more likely to fall prey to such games. “It is either those who are adventure-prone and dare to do anything or the shy ones, the back-benchers, who tend to play this kind of games,” she says. “Those who are generally teased as ‘losers’ get a sense of vindication by playing these games,” Zarwal also states, further explaining that playing these games and performing the tasks gives them a sense of achievement, albeit a false one.
It is high time we take serious steps against such life threatening games and also try to help the children suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. For this, a much-needed awareness is required. It is important to provide the child with a healthy and safe environment, where they can speak freely. And it is also vital for those suffering to seek professional help. The stigma associated with mental illness needs to go. A revamp of the societal mindset is highly needed.
About the Author:
I am pursuing B.Com LLB (Hons) from University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University. I might be afraid of failing and falling, but I am not afraid of trying and this is something like an antidote for both the FAIL and the FALL.
Before I die, I just want to make my parents happy and proud of me.