Most people have heard of Russian Roulette. But now a lesser-known game emanating from Russia is a new threat to children and teens across the globe -including Connecticut.
The Blue Whale Challenge has come ashore, becoming popular enough that some school districts in Connecticut are addressing it, sending letters home to parents warning them of the risks associated with this online “game” in which participants are assigned challenges that become increasingly risky over a 50-day period.
The challenge begins with seemingly benign tasks like watching a scary movie or waking up at unusual times, but becomes increasingly dangerous by instructing participants to do things like hang from roofs or cut themselves. The final challenge encourages suicide.
The Blue Whale Challenge comes on the heels of controversy surrounding the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” which some critics say glorifies suicide and has become extremely popular among kids and teens, who can access both the Blue Whale Challenge and “13 Reasons Why” through their iPhones or other devices.
The challenging thing is that these things are only a few clicks away for many kids. Parents should take a curious approach, such as asking their children if they are aware of the game or topic in order to start a two-way conversation. If the answer is “yes,” talk to them about how dangerous risky behavior can be, to not “follow the crowd” and to never think that suicide is the answer to anything.
The Blue Whale Challenge, which some say gets its name from a belief that blue whales voluntarily beach themselves in order to end their own lives, has been linked to at least 16 deaths in Russia.
Unfortunately, games like this can stir emotions among vulnerable populations, especially people who have experienced significant bullying, feel isolated, have struggled with depression, had suicidal thoughts or have harmed themselves in the past.
These are the kids we need to be most concerned about. But all of us should be vigilant when it comes to our children, no matter how well they seem to be. With so many things just a click away, parents should watch for changes in behavior, be aware of what they are doing online and, although it is not always easy, talk to them as much as possible.
Patricia Rehmer, RN, MSN, ACHE, is Hartford HealthCare senior vice president for behavioral health and president of the HHC Behavioral Health Network, which includes the Institute of Living, Natchaug Hospital, Rushford and the mental health departments at five Connecticut hospitals, including the Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center. To learn more about the Behavioral Health Network visit www.hhcbehavioralhealth.org . To read more health news from Hartford HealthCare or sign up for our e-newsletter, visit www.healthnewshub.org