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LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 137-138

The blue whale challenge: Why do people commit suicide for an online game?


Department of Psychiatry, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Puducherry, India

Date of Web Publication8-Jan-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Parthasarathy Ramamurthy
Department of Psychiatry, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, (A Unit of Madras Medical Mission), Kalathumettupathai, Ganapathichettikulam, Village No. 20, Kalapet, Puducherry - 605 014
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jcrsm.jcrsm_49_17

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How to cite this article:
Ramamurthy P. The blue whale challenge: Why do people commit suicide for an online game?. J Curr Res Sci Med 2017;3:137-8

How to cite this URL:
Ramamurthy P. The blue whale challenge: Why do people commit suicide for an online game?. J Curr Res Sci Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2018 Jul 19];3:137-8. Available from: http://www.jcrsmed.org/text.asp?2017/3/2/137/222419

Dear Sir,

The Blue Whale Challenge is an online game which has gripped the interest of media and the fear of the parents. Several suicides, especially among adolescents, have been attributed to the Blue Whale Challenge. In this game, the participants are given certain tasks to complete in a span of 50 days. The final task given to the participants is to commit suicide and upload proof of successful completion of the task.[1] Every species has an innate instinct for self-preservation. In this context, how could people take their own lives just to complete an online game? We could answer this question through the perspective offered by the “interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide” proposed by Joiner.[2] One hypothesis of this theory is that only persons who have reduced fear of death and reduced pain sensitivity (in other words, those who have acquired capability for suicide) make serious suicide attempts if they develop suicidal ideas.[3] Applying this theory to the Blue Whale Challenge, the initial tasks of the Blue Whale Challenge game can be thought of as tasks that increase physical pain tolerance and thus reduce the fear of death. In the Blue Whale Challenge, the participants are asked to complete several tasks before the final task of committing suicide. Some notable examples include:

  • Carve with a razor “f57” on your hand
  • Cut your arm with a razor along your veins, but not too deep, only 3 cuts
  • Cut your lip
  • Poke your hand with a needle many times
  • Go to a bridge, stand on the edge
  • Go to a roof and sit on the edge with your legs dangling
  • Make 1 cut on your body per day.


If we analyze the tasks closely, we find that many of the above tasks involve infliction of painful stimuli on oneself. After repeatedly undergoing these painful stimuli, the participants develop increased physical pain tolerance and thus reduced fear of death. On successful completion of many of these tasks, the participants henceforth can tolerate pain better and are no longer afraid of death. Such people are said to have acquired capability for suicide. Hence, when the final task of “Jump off a high building and take your life” is given by the administrator of the game, they comply. Of course, only the vulnerable individuals who are probably depressed, lonely, or suicidal would go through all the above steps. Considering the above discussion, we can also predict that individuals who have played the initial tasks have already developed “acquired capability for suicide” because of the experience of completing the tasks. Hence, it is possible that these individuals who do not follow through the final task now may still be at increased risk of serious suicide attempts and completed suicides in future if they develop suicidal ideas.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
  References Top

1.
Available from: http://www.ncpcr.gov.in/showfile.php?lang=1&level=1&sublinkid=1267&lid=1499. [Last accessed on 2017 Aug 27].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Joiner TE Jr., Van Orden KA, Witte TK, Selby EA, Ribeiro JD, Lewis R, et al. Main predictions of the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior: Empirical tests in two samples of young adults. J Abnorm Psychol 2009;118:634-46.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Van Orden KA, Witte TK, Cukrowicz KC, Braithwaite SR, Selby EA, Joiner TE Jr., et al. The interpersonal theory of suicide. Psychol Rev 2010;117:575-600.  Back to cited text no. 3
    




 

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