There is a frightening trend appearing on social media sites in Russia and spreading across the world, involving a suicide game called ‘Blue Whale’ where participants win by dying.
Fears are rising across Russia and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, over online games said to be driving teenagers to commit suicide.
The shocking game – (“синий кит”) goes by a few names:
– Siniy kit (“ a blue whale ”,” синий кит “),
– Tikhiy dom (“ a quiet house/a silent house ”, ” тихий дом “,” #тихийдом “),
– More kitov (“ a sea/a bunch of whales ”,” море китов “,” #морекитов “),
– f53, f57, f58 and Razbudi menya v 4:20 (“ wake me up 4.20 am ”,” разбуди меня в 420 “,” #разбудименяв420 “).
Although it’s hard to say exactly where and when this alarming trend started surfacing online, Russia’s Investigative Committee did announce an arrest linked to the game, which was discovered on the VKontakte social network. Spokesperson for Russia’s Investigative Committee Svetlana Petrenko told TASS that after conducting an investigation, a criminal case on charges of instigating suicide was launched.
RBTH reports, “According to the investigators, from December 2013 to May 2016, the perpetrators established eight virtual groups on the VKontakte social network to promote suicidal behavior and drive underage users to commit suicide.”
The underlying premise of the game is as follows: you sign up and are given an administrator, or curator, assigned to you. This curator gives you things to do, over the course of 50 days, and you must send proof that you have carried out their demands. At the end of the 50 days, you win by committing suicide.
One correspondent from RFE/RL wanted to see how the Blue Whale game worked, so they created a fake profile of a 15-year old girl, on the VKontake site. The following is a transcription of their online conversation:
“I want to play the game.”
“Are you sure? There is no way back,” responded a so-called curator of the Blue Whale game.
“Yes. What does that mean — no way back?”
“You can’t leave the game once you begin.”
“I’m ready.” Then the curator explained the rules.
“You carry out each task diligently, and no one must know about it. When you finish a task, you send me a photo. And at the end of the game, you die. Are you ready?”
“And if I want to get out?”
“I have all your information. They will come after you.”
The first task given to the corespondent was to scratch “F58” into her arm. They tried to fool the curator with a photoshopped image, but the curator ceased to respond.
Over the course of about a week, RFE/RL managed to contact more than a dozen self-proclaimed current and former players and several curators.
“I am your personal whale,” another curator wrote, explaining that the game consisted of 50 tasks spread over 50 days. “I will help you take the game all the way to the end. The last day is the end of the game. If you die, you win. If you don’t, we will help you. Are you ready?”
The curator then promised to send the first task at 4:20 a.m. But by then, the curator’s account had been blocked.
Russian authorities believe the man behind this horrible creation is Filip Budeikin, who is currently facing charges for driving at least 15 teenagers to commit suicide.
In a disturbing interview with the saint-petersburg.ru media outlet, Budeikin admitted the real number was 17 and said his victims “died happy. I gave them that which they did not have in their real life: warmth, understanding, connection.”
One such victim was Galina Sibiryakova, a 19-year-old from Karaganda. She was found dead on Feb. 7 by her parents. The family claimed the teenager used her phone to stay in constant contact with someone on Skype, reports Astana Times.
Currently, authorities in Kazakhstan have blocked access to the “death groups” on social media, and in Central Asia, Kazakh Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kasymov has called for creating a national database of social-media users. In the capital of Kyrgyzstan, police have begun searching through schools to check children for signs of cutting or for suspicious messages on their phones.
While this may seem like an overreaction to some, others find the actions taken by authorities to be justified. Blocking of any sites with hashtags #SeaOfWhales, #BlueWhales, #WhalesSwimUpwards and #WakeMeUpAt420, as well as #F58, and many others has already begun.
Suicide is a real issue in these countries, and the children who fall victim to this game are lied to and led by a fear that someone will come after them or their family if they don’t follow the rules. One teenager reported receiving a message that stated, “Your mother won’t reach the bus stop tomorrow.”
Another participant who referred to himself as Ivan said he tried to quit the game by blocking his curator. However he later received a message from another curator saying, “You can’t hide from us.” Ivan blocked that account too and had no further issues, nor did he receive any more messages.
Despite the threats that many Blue Whale players have received, there have been no reported incidents of any kind related to the game outside the virtual world.
It might not be easy to understand what draws kids into these types of games, but the signs of a suicidal child can be recognized if you know where to look. Thankfully, the Youth Suicide Prevention Program has outlined some of the more noticeable characteristics found in depressed or suicidal teens.
Most suicidal young people don’t really want to die; they just want their pain to end. About 80% of the time, people who kill themselves have given definite signals or talked about suicide. The key to prevention is to know these signs and what to do to help.
- A previous suicide attempt
- Current talk of suicide or making a plan
- Strong wish to die or a preoccupation with death
- Giving away prized possessions
- Signs of depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal
- Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
- Hinting at not being around in the future or saying good-bye