Teen Suicide: A Whale of a Problem
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that in 2015, there were 12.3 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people in South Africa. They also report that suicide was the fourth leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24 in South Africa in 2012. In 2017, one wonders if the suicide statistics for young people have become even worse?
An infamous ‘suicide game’ called the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ recently washed up on South African shores. This ‘game’ has caused a number of deaths by suicide internationally. Although no suicides in South African have been attributed to the online game yet, cyber investigators are aware that a small number of South African teenagers are known to have played the game.
The Blue Whale game is downloaded as a smartphone app. Once someone signs ups, they are assigned an instructor who gives them 50 tasks. The tasks become more extreme as they progress. Challenges start ‘mild’, such as waking up at odd hours, or listening to a certain song. But later, participants are encouraged to cut words or whale symbols into his or her skin. The final task is suicide.
The Blue Whale Challenge was allegedly invented by a psychology student, Philipp Budeikin, created to ‘cleanse society through suicide of the weak’. He has since been arrested and pleaded guilty for inciting suicide.
The spokesperson for the Hawks, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, says that the Hawks are doing extensive research into the app and want the public to be aware of its existence.
Part of a greater problem
Dessy Tzoneva, spokesperson for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says: “It is not just Blue Whale, it is also a lot of other online activity like cyber bullying that parents need to be concerned with. Parents need to know what their children are doing online.”
Indeed, the real issue here is not the game itself, but why troubled teenagers would choose to take part or attempt to end their lives in the first place.
What should parents do?
Parents and caregivers should not be worrying about the Blue Whale game specifically, especially since it’s near impossible to try and stop a game or app from being accessible. Rather, they should be engaging with experts and talking to their children about the many other factors which may influence their behaviour.
- Discover the internet with your children
- Set rules when it comes to social media
- Become tech savvy enough to monitor and control your child’s behaviour online
Most importantly, foster good communication and connection with your child so that you can identify when their behaviour changes or when something is wrong and seek professional help and advice.