Suicide game blamed for teen deaths; schools, police sending ale - WSMV News 4

Suicide game blamed for teen deaths; schools, police sending alerts

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According to the BBC, the Blue Whale challenge has origins in Russia. (WSMV) According to the BBC, the Blue Whale challenge has origins in Russia. (WSMV)

A dangerous game, called the Blue Whale challenge, is making headlines around the country. Two families are now blaming the online game for their teens committing suicide last week.

There's a debate circulating over deaths connected to the game, but a San Antonio, TX, family and an Atlanta, GA, family said it's the reason their son and daughter are dead.

School districts in several states and law enforcement in Miami are taking notice too, sending out warnings to parents or making PSAs to alert the public.

Teenagers who spoke to Channel 4 said they had heard about Blue Whale and how dangerous it can be.

"I heard about it from Shane Dawson on YouTube. He does these videos about scary games or whatever, and he was talking about it in one of his videos," said Simba Diaz, who is 16 years old.

Blue Whale appears to be an online game that targets teens through social media apps, getting them to download an app and complete 50 daily tasks, like harming yourself and committing suicide by the last day.

"Someone sent me a message on Tumblr and basically said, 'Hey there's this thing going around and I think you should look out for it. Like I care about you.' It was an anonymous though, so I don't know who it was," said Sterling Wade, who is 17 years old.

While families in Texas and Georgia blame the game for their teens committing suicide, there's limited information about where to find it. Channel 4 searched social media for the Blue Whale challenge and found a message on Instagram offering help. According to the BBC, the game has origins in Russia, and a Russian citizen was arrested and charged with inciting suicide.

"If the child is depressed or feeling anxious, then I think therapy is really important. Having them go and communicate their thoughts, process their feelings with somebody else, and kind of let those people know what's going on," said Dr. Brett Shapiro, a Nashville child psychologist.

Shapiro said suicide games and apps are common and parents need to watch for signs.

"Extreme mood swings with adolescents or children, drawing pictures, doing essays related to death," Shapiro said. "A really common one is giving away personal possessions, giving away prized materials, things that they really care about."

Shapiro said families should be open with children. That's how Ustina Rezkaloa approaches talking to her younger sister.

"She's in middle school, so that's all stuff that's going on in there. One of the big things is like, 'Hey how was your day? What did you do? Tell me what happened, tell me what you found out,'" said Rezkaloa of La Vergne.

School districts in several states, including Alabama, Massachusetts and Colorado, sent alerts to parents about Blue Whale. When Channel 4 called around to several in Middle Tennessee, none of the schools have sent notices to parents about the game, but officials said that doesn't mean students aren't talking about it.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network or call the hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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