National | Blue Whale challenge game does exist, finds AIIMS
NATIONAL | March 16, 2018
While lack of case studies have prompted many to doubt the existence of the suicide game called Blue Whale Challenge, doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences have documented one such case and confirmed that the game does exist. The doctors have even reported it in a medical journal called "Asia-Pacific Psychiatry".
Under Blue Whale Challenge, a group of administrators gives a participant a task to complete daily — for a period of 50 days — which culminates in the participant committing suicide.
According to the AIIMS doctors, the victim, a student, came to the institute's Behavioural Addiction Clinic with his father last year. He had received the link to the online game in his social media account. When he clicked on the link, an application was installed on his phone. Its icon resembled a "big fish", the boy recalled. Every day, the application set out a unique task for him, which he performed. The first task was to clap twice and say "I am very strong". While the boy didn't remember what the second step was, the third task involved carving "F15" on his forearm with a sharp object, the fourth called for standing in balcony for 2-3 hours, the fifth to carve a picture of blue whale on himself — which he did — and the sixth to listen to a tune played through the application.
Thankfully, the boy's father happened to spot the application on the phone before he could set out for the seventh task. As the father was aware of the game and a number of suicides being attributed to it, he immediately deleted the application and rushed him to BAC. The family later informed the doctors that the child was "normal" throughout his life, but preferred to be alone. He was a good student and even during the time when he was playing the game, there was no noticeable change in his behaviour.
However, clinical evaluation revealed that the boy had symptoms of depression. The boy said he took up the tasks out of curiosity. "We gave him medications and counselled him further to quit the habit," Dr Y P S Balhara, who heads the behavioural addiction clinic at AIIMS, told media. He refused to divulge further details on the case citing privacy, but added there was no previous record of Blue Whale Challenge in any other medical journal as yet.
Balhara, an associate professor of psychiatry at AIIMS, said they have uploaded a video on the BAC site to make people aware of the game, how to spot the signs of children being involved in it and how to avoid them. "The boy's case confirms the existence of the game," he said. The doctors said many other similar games were available online and parents should be aware of them. "Children are susceptible to games that involve self-harm. So, parents and teachers should look out for suspicious behaviour. Also, mental health professionals need to take such concerns when pointed out to them seriously," said an expert.
He added that unrestricted internet usage among children needed to be relooked at, as well.
In November last year, the Centre expressed its helplessness to curb the menace of Blue Whale challenge before the Supreme Court, adding that it had decided to pursue the policy of "prevention is better than cure" and issued a circular to all schools regarding the safe use of internet in educational institutions. The government also suggested to Facebook to take proactive steps to identify those users who were depressed and seek to play the Blue Whale game and alert local police.
The Centre's submission came following brainstorming sessions with scientists, information technology experts and internet and social media companies, which could not yield any solution.