Friday, October 20, 2017 | Updated at 1:58 PM ET


What Is The "Blue Whale" Suicide Game and How It Went Viral

First Posted: Jun 19, 2017 01:33 PM EDT
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Reports of a mysterious and distrubing social media challenge targeting vulnerable teens to commit acts of self-harm and suicide and its spread around the world are concerning authorities and parents.

The "Blue Whale" challenge is a game that give its users, predominantly adolescents on the Internet, a series of tasks over 50 days that reportedly escalate in severity, urging the players to commit suicide at the game's conclusion. The tasks can range from watching disturbing videos, to self-mutilation, to players depriving themselves of sleep for dangerous amounts of time.

The title of "Blue Whale" comes from a lyric from a Russian rock band's song about depression and can be tied to numerous groups on Russian social media promoting the game and finding new players with images of blue whales.

VIDEO: The Leader of the "Blue Whale" Suicide Groups Speaks Out

Amidst conflicting and unconfirmed reports of over 130 suicides connected to the game, this much is certain: by its very nature these pages and ideas are spreading past the borders of Russia and into the world at large. It has been spotted cropping up in Brazil and American parents and teachers are talking to their kids about their social media usage in response to the #bluewhalechallenge hashtag making it to Instagram.

When searched for on Instagram, the app sends a short verification stating: “Posts with words or tags you’re searching for often encourage behaviour that can cause harm and even lead to death. If you’re going through something difficult, we’d like to help.” The app still allows users to see the related posts anyway.

Health officials and the supposed ring leader of the game, the now jailed Philipp Budeikin, both contend that teens with suicidal thoughts will inevitably seek out like minded individuals and crave a sense of purpose that the game gives them. Researchers attribute the high rates of teen suicide in Russia to familial instability due to political and socioeconomic upheaval, something that teens around the world can relate to in various ways.

People of any age feeling affected by this issue are directed to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for information and support at 1-800-273-8255. Para ayuda en Espanol llama a 1-888-628-9454.

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