Suicide …. Stigmatised silence for all affected.
Though, as a society, we are talking more about suicide and mental health, we aren’t talking enough and there are those who have no tolerance for the subject, perhaps because they’ve been lucky not to be affected. Yet. There are still people in society who frown upon suicide, considering it selfish and a ‘waste’ – these opinions simply fuel the silence, feed the stigma.
The uninformed, the misinformed, the unsympathetic, utter words that are not constructive, pass judgements they have no right to and cast derisory and intimidating looks into the eyes of tortured and troubled souls. Actions such as these will not assist breaking down the (many) barriers still facing those taken hostage by the black dog.
Worse, youngsters via their latest technological gadgets are encouraging each other to self harm or even take their own lives.
A GP contacted me today about a new online ‘game’, although it’s hardly that, called Blue Whale. Heard of it? If you have, you’ll probably share my despair, disgust and concern about the latest technology attack on our young people. Because that’s exactly what it is. Originating in Russia, and being blamed for suicides amongst young people over there, it is now on its way into Europe. Parents, brothers, sisters … beware.
If you’ve not heard of it, brace yourself. Blue Whale, in brief, supplies ‘moderators’ to people who sign up, asking them if they are sure they want to play the game. So far, sounds safe enough. Youngsters are assigned daily tasks or challenges, usually involving self harm, but apparently more ‘normal’ tasks are also set. This goes on, apparently, for 49 days, each task becoming more dangerous and repugnant, until on Day 50, the subject is asked to kill themselves. That’s right, that’s how they can ‘win’ the game.
If this sounds incredible, you can search for yourself on Youtube. Members are told they cannot leave or they will be tracked down. When they’ve completed each task, they have to take a photo so the moderator can check they’re playing ‘by the rules’.
Young peoples’ minds can be manipulated and controlled in all kinds of unproductive ways – look at the recent articles about children trained by IS to hunt and kill defenceless people without a second thought; they can also be sucked into what are essentially cyber cults, being brainwashed, being made to feel part of something exciting, dangerous and secretive. Let’s face it, children love keeping secrets from Mum and Dad, it makes them feel ‘old enough’ to make their own decisions and all children, to varying degrees, indulge in this practice. And Blue Whale capitalise on this by telling all users not to tell anyone about it and surely unsettling the balance of the brain by telling them to watch horror movies for periods at a time and waking up at odd hours. Users become willing slaves to the demands.
This has created much discussion and variance of opinion. It could be argued that perhaps these children had mental wellbeing issues to begin with and felt drawn to this site because it enabled them to fulfil their need to abuse themselves – for once, self harm and suicide are not only endorsed, but actively encouraged. That’s the whole aim of the game.
But, what about the other side of the coin? Those who thought it might be a bit of a laugh to see what goes on, only to find themselves drawn in to the darkness and horrors ahead, fearing to stop in case they were indeed tracked down. Imagine the fear that presents to a young person. Too scared to confide in anyone, they simply follow instructions until death.
The point is, whether users had existing mental health issues or not, Blue Whale is potentially lethal, because the climate of fear it must surely create could easily render someone mentally insane by the end of 49 days. If you’re a parent or a teacher, then you need to be extra vigilant.
According to an article in The Sun Online, 17th March this year, “Last year, an alleged ringleader named as 21-year-old Philipp Budeikin was detained, and he has been charged with organising eight groups between 2013 and 2016 which “promote suicide”.
Some 15 teenagers committed suicide, and another five were rescued at the last moment, according to the case against him.”
Our condolences to the family, friends and fellow students of Elsa Scaburri, a third year languages student at Bristol University, whom it is believed ended her life by suicide near her home last week. This is the fifth suspected suicide at Bristol University this year.
Sally Weale, Education Correspondent for the Guardian, printed a statement from a spokesman at Bristol University:
“The welfare of our students and staff continues to be our highest priority and it is distressing for all members of the university community that one of our students has died,” the University of Bristol spokesperson said. “We would urge any students affected by this tragic incident to seek support from university services, friends or family.
“In the context of increasing national concerns about student mental health we have been working with our staff and students to review how best to support all students including those with enduring mental health difficulties.”
SOS Silence of Suicide hopes to announce an SOS event at Bristol University sometime during 2017.