Tackle Blue Whale suicide game with open conversation, say St Albans charity
- Credit: Archant
Destroying the taboo on suicide is the best way to tackle the infamous and controversial Blue Whale game according to the founder of a St Albans suicide prevention charity.
One Life Lost Is Enough (OLLIE) was co-founded a year ago by Stuart Falconer after his 15-year-old son, Morgan, suddenly and unexpectedly took his own life in May 2015.
He has spoken out after reports the Blue Whale game - which has already been attributed to 130 suicides in Russia - is now spreading across the world and into Britain.
The game started on a Russian social media website called VK - for 50 days vulnerable and impressionable teenagers are presented with a set of increasingly disturbing daily challenges which they must complete to supposedly win.
Tasks range from watching horror films and waking up early, to varying degrees of self-harm and, on the 50th day, suicide.
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It is named in reference to the phenomenon of whales beaching themselves and was allegedly created by Philipp Budeikin, 21, who is being held in a Russian jail for inciting school girls to take their own lives.
OLLIE founder Stuart believes fewer teens would be at risk of being brainwashed by the game if everyone spoke more openly and addressed the enormity of the subject of teen suicide.
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He explained: “Everyone knows what the word suicide means, but most people’s frame of reference is what people see in the papers and on the TV.
“What I have learnt is actually just talking about suicide, explaining it and understanding it, gives young people an outlet to say ‘yes, I am feeling really down’.
“The thing about the Blue Whale game is it’s vulnerable people who are already feeling low, and it talks them down a certain pathway that is entirely different to what they see on TV.”
Stuart highlighted that teenage victims do not have a wealth of life experience to realise an exceptionally bad day can be better tomorrow, making them more susceptible to the game.
“I think these young people, the same as Morgan, don’t necessarily recognise the enormity of their actions. I think Morgan, if he was looking down, would say ‘what have I done?’.
“Their perception of suicide is very different to what they see on the TV - we need to talk about what suicide actually means and the enormity of it.”
He encourages parents to break the taboo and discuss the subject openly, to make it accessible and understandable.
OLLIE was set up by Stuart and two other bereaved parents to train professionals who work with young people in how to approach and have conversations with potentially suicidal people - called SafeTALK.
A more advanced version of the training is also available for those who want to push past that initial contact and make sure the person stays safe into the future - this is called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).
The charity has grown exponentially throughout the last year, from modest beginnings in a St Albans pub to now having 50 volunteers and hitting their fundraising target of £30,000, but are still appealing for support.
Police cadets, fire cadets, community nurses, and pastoral groups have all approached the charity interested in training.
Stuart is astounded: “Before you know it, the movement has such momentum, which is fantastic.”
“I could never have imagined the steps we have taken to get here.
“The charity has a much bigger part to play in the community then I had ever anticipated, so that’s what drives us forward.”
He now wants to expand out of St Albans and reach countywide.
Describing Morgan, he said: “He was just the sweetest boy. When I used to go to the cinema he would sit on my lap. Morgan wore his heart on his sleeve which made him absolutely adorable. He would dress up, he was creative. I just remember the cuddly boy, that’s what I remember the most.
“The horrific reality of it is, he didn’t have to die. He had his whole future ahead of him.”
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