A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: This Blue Whale better not challenge!
In her weekly column, A Calmer You, Sonal Kalra asks: Have we really lost it if suicide is being called a ‘game’ now?columns Updated: Sep 02, 2017 17:00 IST
Life’s not easy. It has never been…not even for the ones living in the White House or Mannat or Antilla. So you and I have enough reasons to crib, complaint and cry, if we wish to. It is still not bad enough for us to ‘play’ with our life’s very existence. And that’s why it is a bloody serious matter if youngsters across the world have started to do just that, in the name of a so-called ugly game called The Blue Whale Challenge.
I’ll tell you why I call it ugly before even describing what it is. Firstly, there’s nothing ‘Game’ like about it. Second, the Blue Whale is a beautiful creature who has done precious little to be associated with a nasty phenomenon. Thirdly, the term challenge should and does only invoke one emotion — that of courage. And the Blue Whale Challenge is the biggest example of just the opposite — it is symbolic of cowardice.
What started as an online concept in 2013 in Russia seems to have now reached more than 50 countries. The so-called inventor of the so-called ‘game’ is behind bars. But this is what he managed to create – a network of sadists across the Internet who lurk around, looking for vulnerable kids who will agree to take up the challenge of harming themselves and eventually taking their own life — either for the sorrow or the thrill involved. Just for clarity, Blue Whale is not an app or a game that kids can download. It exists across social media where certain self-styled administrators respond to queries from users who want to take up the challenge. Once in it, the victim is given a self-harm task every day for 50 days. The tasks, all range from poking needles in your body to sitting on the edge of your window with the your legs hanging out to climbing a crane to eventually bleeding yourself to death by etching a blue whale on your wrist with a blade. Goddamn cowards — both who instruct it and those who do it. But then when did our world have less of those? More than 100 suicides have been reported across the world, including a few recent ones from India. It has justifiably caused concern among lawmakers, psychological experts, teachers and most importantly, among parents of pre-teens or teens, the most vulnerable target group. Here are my two bits on the subject, to each group:
1. To the parents: If your kid has started spending too much time on his/her phone, and begun to look sad or lonely of late, you should be able to catch the signals early on. The Blue Whale admins normally respond to those kids who put up statuses or remarks about hating their life, on social media. These responses start with empathy towards the kid’s state of mind, and go on to drag him/her in taking up challenges which promise to end their misery forever. In most cases, the victim initially takes it up out of sheer curiosity. And then feels stuck in it because the admins threaten to cause harm to their family if they’d withdraw from the challenge mid-way.
What you must do, as an informed parent or family member is to regularly check what a youngster in the family does on their phone. It’s easy to check the browser history to see if they have googled anything related to Blue Whale, or mentioned it in their chats on Whatsapp groups etc. At the slightest of hints, sit the kid down, and TALK. Tell them that you know, tell them that no one can pressure, coax or threaten them into taking up the challenge, or leaving it mid-way. Most importantly, tell them, with all the sensitivity and love in the world, that you are with them. WITH THEM.
2. To the teachers/counselors: You know it better than I do, that kids of a vulnerable age need delicate handling. If a certain teenager has been brought to your attention, by his friends or family, do pay that attention, please, before it gets too late. Internet can be a great source of learning for a child in today’s age. And whether we like it or not, the kids are going to be at it. For all the cell-phones-banned-in-the-school stance, you do know that kids as young as 8-9 years old these days are on Whatsapp or Instagram or Facebook or what have you, the moment they reach back home. Realistically, you have a better chance of expressing empathy with the kids than even their parents. And as professional educators, you have a great responsibility, too. So catch the bull by the horns. Rather than wait for a victim to be brought to your attention, conduct a pro-active informative session in your class about the Blue Whale Challenge and similar harmful stuff. Have kids open up, tell them about the warning signs. Most importantly, tell them about the dangers of sharing personal information with strangers over Internet. And tell them that you’re with them in case they need to share problems being faced at home. WITH THEM.
3. To the youngsters: Tum toh aa jao saamne thappad khaane. Suicide game... eh? Is this a joke and are you being funny or brave or cool by getting into it? You know what, there’s no bigger loser in life than the one who takes a foolish short-cut when life gives problems. What’s so brave about picking up a blade and cutting yourself? Koi bhi kar sakta hai, if there’s a proper competition among fools in the world.
And if you say that it’s depression or boredom that’s making you take up the Blue or White or Green Whale challenge, then you ought to seek treatment for stupidity before anything else. See man, life sucks at times. For every single one of us. There are exams flunked, relationships broken, friendships gone sour. All that is a ‘part of life’... It’s not THE LIFE. So it makes no sense to take away something bigger for something small and temporary. Basic common sense nah? Every damn problem has a solution… you can either find it, or wait for time to find it over its own course. Trust me, a Blue Whale is not going to get it for you. She’s too busy trying to find a solution to her own existence. Go, chill.
Sonal Kalra wanted to fight the Blue Whale Challenge. But then she realised that she’s turning into the blue whale herself. Depression. And dieting. Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra