The Blue Whale Challenge targets teenagers between 12 and 19. They are dared via social media into completing different challenges over a period of 50 days. This can go from "listen to melancholic music" or "watch horror movies for a whole day" to "scratch the figure of a whale in your arm". The 50th challenge is: "Commit suicide". If you abandon the programme, you risk being threatened.
The "game" comes from Russia, but has now spread to Belgium via Eastern Europe and France. First reports about "hundreds of youngsters taking their own lives" may have been exaggerated, but it has become clear that the challenge is posing a real danger to the well-being of teenagers.
"Open communication is key"
Considering the increasing number of reports and questions, magistrates are taking action now. They are searching for people organising the 'game' or pressing others to participate. "Because they are indeed involved in criminal acts at this stage", says spokesman Eric Van der Sypt.
Victims' parents are asked to talk a lot to their children. "An open communication is key", says Dirk Depover of Child Focus.
For any questions on suicide, it's possible to dial the number 1813 (free of charge) or go via the website zelfmoord1813.be for suicide prevention.