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Blue Whale Challenge linked to teen suicide, a chance to start a conversation

Ellen Eggert, the supervisor of the Kern County Mental Health Hotline, talks about teen suicide and the Blue Whale Challenge. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

The Blue Whale Challenge is an internet "game" that many believe to be fiction.

According to myth, the game originated in Russia and is named after a phenomenon in which blue whales were intentionally beaching themselves.

It is a 50 day challenge during which participants are given a daily task each day.

On the 50th day, the task is to kill yourself.

Reports from around the globe link the Blue Whale Challenge to more than 130 teen suicides.

This includes at least two reported in Texas and Tennessee. So, if the challenge does exist, it has reached the United States.

Suicide prevention experts in Kern County believe this possibly mythical challenge provides parents with a good opportunity to start a conversation with their children, a conversation about suicide.

"Ask them that scary question, 'Are you thinking about killing yourself?' If they are, they'll tell you," said Ellen Eggert, the supervisor of the Kern County Mental Health Hotline. "They're not going to get mad at you. They are going to be so happy you asked."

Eggert suggests asking your children very straight forward and to the point questions: Are you thinking about suicide? Do you know about the Blue Whale Challenge? Do you want to kill yourself?

According to her beating around the bush doesn't help get to the issue and give teens a loophole to bail out of the conversation.

For those who think their children aren't at risk of falling prey to the Blue Whale Challenge and suicide altogether, the time to reconsider is now.

1 in 6 American teens considered suicide in the past year.

These teens tend to feel little to no connection to their family, community, school, or peers.

For that reason they are targets for those who orchestrate the Blue Whale Challenge.

According to children's behavioral health experts teens with no connection long for a connection and will take one anywhere they can find it.

"We are animals that thrive off of, thrive off of other people caring for us," said Jason Giffard, supervisor of children's health at Kern County Behavioral Health. "And so we seek that out."

That is how the "masters" are able to keep control of the blue whale challenge "player". Once a teen with connection issues creates a bond with someone they will do just about anything to keep that relationship.

Both Giffard and Eggert believe the best way to prevent a teenagers, or anyone, from taking their own life is to be as involved in their life as possible. To show them people do care about them; specifically you.

Another approach Eggert recommends is being very direct and straight forward when asking about suicide.

Also it is suggested to keep a close eye on your relatives' actions and tendencies. Look for subtle changes in their behavior and don't be afraid to confront them about those changes.

"Ask that question! What's the worst thing that can happen? They might live. You might get them some help," said Eggert. "There's nothing bad that can happen if you ask that question. But if you don't ask, I can think of a lot of bad things that can happen."

Signs to watch out for are withdrawing from people and hobbies, emotional shifts, and unexplained cuts and injuries.

Kern County Behavioral Health offers classes to teach people how to talk to their loved ones about suicide.

If you are ever in a crisis you can call the hotline 800-991-5272.

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