A deadly game has claimed the lives of countless youngsters who are believed to have been manipulated into committing suicide.
It’s described as a game, but The BlueWhale Challenge leaves no winners – only young people who are victim to the depraved ‘biological cleansing’ of Russian criminal Phillip Budeikin and his Svengalian cohorts of so-called ‘masters’.
The new social media craze, dubbed Blue Whale for the mammal’s tendency to beach itself, gives young players a ‘master’, who leads them through 50 dangerous and soul-destroying tasks – including self-harm – designed to break their spirit and encourage them to commit suicide in a ‘final fateful challenge’.
Online suicide groups have been linked to over 130 teen deaths in Russia, including Yulia Konstantinova, 15, and Veronika Volkova, 16, Angelina Davydova, aged only 12, Diana Kuznetsova, 16, and Ukranian-born Vilena Piven, 15.
More recently, the grieving father of British 13-year-old Conor Wilmott issued a warning to other parents about the dangers of online grooming after finding his ‘happy and hard-working’ son’s body in a field near his home in Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, Ireland.
Mr Wilmot suspects Conor was playing the Blue Whale suicide game.
While the US has yet to confirm or acknowledge the existence of the game, the family of American schoolboy Isaiah Gonzales, who took his own life, claim the Blue Whale Challenge was the root of his turmoil.
As the death toll continues to grow, UNILAD asked child psychotherapist Dr Valerie Sinason, founder of the Clinic for Dissociative Studies, why so many seemingly happy and stable young people are being manipulated into playing this sick game.
Dr Valerie Sinason told UNILAD:
For children and teenagers, cyberspace is like a giant school playground where, hiding in plain sight from adult authority, bullying moves from the corners around the toilets into the main space.
She added: “Its complex secrecy and publicity make children and teenagers, who are defining their identity, more vulnerable to it.”
Youth depression and anxiety has risen in the UK with more than a third of all girls reporting symptoms of stress and worthlessness, according to the Department of Education.
Dr Sinason said ‘concerns about body image start in infant school’, adding that one in 10 children have mental health problems often as ‘a direct response to what is happening in their lives’.
She also claimed children have a ‘fearlessness’ over the idea of death that adults don’t due to the development of their brain. Therefore, children don’t have the protection against a ‘cult leader’ like an adult would and that even a depressed adult would be vulnerable to its lure.
Dr Sinason suggested the game plays on ‘a longing for someone to provide the answers’:
The fact it’s hidden in a game with different steps is also addictive and enticing. The idea it’s a “game” draws young people in who are trying out risk in shaping their own boundaries. Many risky childhood pursuits of their parents’ generation are denied for safety reasons so risking safety in cyberspace can be an alternative.
The alleged ringleader, Russian-born Phillip Budeikin, 21, is being held on charges of inciting suicide and organising eight ‘suicidal groups’ promoting the act.
He claimed in court last year his teenage victims are a ‘biological waste’ and he is ‘cleansing society’ and later, in interview, admitted putting 17 girls into ‘a trance’, saying:
There are people and there is biological waste. Those who do not represent any value for society. Who will cause only harm to society.
This attitude is described by Dr Sinason as being that of a ‘paedophobe’ – someone who ‘hated their own child self’ and in a bid to destroy that self, hurts other children.
Budeikin has now confessed to the crimes but not before telling police the victims were ‘happy to die’:
Don’t worry, you’ll understand everything. Everyone will understand. They were dying happy. I was giving them what they didn’t have in real life: warmth, understanding, connections.
Anton Breido, a senior official from the Investigative Committee, warned Budeikin was working with help.
Since then, two more people have been arrested – one, a female teenager from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, who is too young to be identified, and the other, 26-year-old Ilya Sidorov, a Moscow postman who confessed to seeking to coax as many as 32 underprivileged schoolchildren into taking their own lives.
Copycats called A Silent House, Sea Of Whales and Wake Me Up at 4.20 have now emerged as the authorities clamp down on dangerous social groups with many of them heading underground, seeking the privacy of direct messages.
But social influencers are trying to combat Blue Whale by giving youngsters a different challenge to channel their energy towards, aptly called The Happy Whale.
Mathieu Herrmann, an Italian vlogger, shared his 21-day positivity challenge, writing: “This game lasts 21 days and in contrast to #bluewhalechallenge serves to generate positive energy. We are in 2017, we play to be happy, not to be cheated by evil minds.”
#balenafelice Day 21 of 21: "Siamo giunti al termine del nostro viaggio. Guarda sempre avanti! Sei fiero del percorso che hai intrapreso? Sei fiero di te stesso? Sei fiero della gente che ti vuole bene? Se sì la #balenafelice ha funzionato. Non mollare mai. Non sono gli altri a decidere per te. Sei tu a decidere per te stesso e sei tu a decidere di quali persone circondarti. Io l'ho fatto e devo dire che sto trascorrendo un'adolescenza splendida❤." Ringrazio la mia famiglia. I miei amici. La mia ragazza. Coloro che mi seguono e chiunque abbia sempre creduto in me. Siete il mio sorriso!❤ • A breve uscirà un video speciale riguardo a questo percorso! State sintonizzati per godervi la ciliegina sulla torta di questo progetto che secondo me è magnifico! • Questo gioco dura 21 giorni e al contrario della #bluewhalechallenge serve a generare energia positiva. Siamo nel 2017, giochiamo a essere felici, non a essere pedine di menti malvagie. • OGNI giorno posterò la foto della challenge relativa a quel giorno. Al 22º giorno uscirà il video della mia #balenafelice challenge sul mio canale. • Vi prego di TAGGARE i vostri amici oppure CONDIVIDERE questo post sulle vostre bacheche in modo da far arrivare a TUTTI questa bella iniziativa. #esladventure
Dr Valerie has some advice for parents and care-givers, concluding:
What a good-enough parent does is make time for a child to express concerns. It means little moments each day checking on food preferences, how things are as well as space that is consistent for a talk that needs longer.
If there is a trusted adult who is able to make it safe for a child to express their concerns then the danger is cushioned. However, the current high level of depression in children and adolescents means that even a loved child can be vulnerable.
It means thinking educationally with children about what does it mean to have someone trying to kill young people? It means liaison with schools for educational programs to be provided. But the biggest inoculation of all is showing love.
While some dismiss the Blue Whale Challenge as an unsubstantiated media hoax, the phenomenon, regardless of its veracity, is undoubtedly disturbing.
Whatever the cause, as a society we have to acknowledge that a world – virtual or not – which encourages children to end their young lives needs to change.
If any of the issues above have affected you, please don’t suffer in silence. Call Samaritans anytime, from any phone, free of charge on 116 123. In the US, call 1 (800) 273-TALK. In Australia, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.