Hundreds of teenagers in Russia have committed suicide. The ‘Blue Whale challenge’ encourages vulnerable teenagers to take part in a series of disturbing tasks – like cutting themselves – each day for 50 days.
According to Russian reports, one of the tasks involved teenagers cutting the shape of a whale on their body, using a sharp knife or razor.
On the final day of the challenge – they are told to kill themselves.
The ‘game’ is being investigated by police in Russia after a spate of teenage suicide attempts.
As fears of the game coming to the UK spread, British police have started posting online warnings alerting parents to the challenge.
Devon and Cornwall Police PCSO Kirsty Down posted on Twitter: “Who ever created this horrible game is sick! Parents: Please be aware of this ‘game’ talk to your children about it if concerned.”
Similar warnings have been issued elsewhere in Europe, including Belgium, where three cases were opened this week, and France.
One of the warnings issued by police on Twitter
The challenge is thought to be named after the common belief that blue whales voluntarily wash up on beaches to die.
As part of the ‘game’ the self-harm tasks are set out by an “administrator” of a group on social media.
The panic was sparked by the death of two teenagers in Russia last month who were believed to be participating.
The two girls, named as 15-year-old Yulia Konstaninova and 16-year-old Veronica Volkova, fell to their deaths from the roof of an apartment block in Ust-Ilimsk.
One of the tasks is to carve a whale into the skin
The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a probe on ‘incitement to suicides’ in relation to the deaths of the two girls.
“Investigators checked the scene, the homes of the minors, and interviewed relatives and friends of the victims, to establish the motives,” said a statement.
“Particular attention during the investigation of the criminal case will be given to the study of their social contacts on the Internet.”
Veronika Volkova fell from a 14-storey building
It was believed the group behind the game were responsible for at least 130 suicides across Russia last year.
In the same year, alleged ringleader Philip Budeikin, 21, was arrested and charged with organised eight groups ‘promoting suicide’.
Police arrested a 21-year-old ringleader last year
The arrest saw a brief reduction in cases, but the game has resurfaced with force once again, prompting fears of a major new wave of suicides – this time targeting vulnerable teenagers outside Russia.