A 14-year-old in Mumbai, India flung himself from the roof of a seven-story building on Saturday in order to win a terrifying game that is apparently spreading around the world.
According to the Mumbai police, the boy is India’s first reported Blue Whale Challenge casualty.
Though rumors of the seemingly oxymoronic “suicide game” were originally thought to be a hoax, this boy’s death — along with numerous other casualties — shows that the hashtag can indeed have real and deadly consequences.
Here’s how it works:
Social media users find a game “curator” by searching for the term online. That person then sends them daily tasks like carve “F57” into your hand with a razor, go on a roof and sit with your feet dangling off the edge, and visit a railroad.
The “players” are supposed to send photos of each completed task in order to receive the next one.
The final challenge is to kill yourself.
The game is thought to have started in Russia, but versions of it are popping up all over the world.
SkyNews reports that at least 130 people have taken their own lives as part of the Blue Whale Challenge.
“I didn’t believe it, I guess,” one college student told SkyNews about playing the game. “I decided to look for it.”
He found a curator and then started completing the harmful assignments.
“They start psychologically manipulating you,” he said. “It is very professionally done. You become a bit of a zombie.”
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) May 19, 2017
The game’s latest victim had dreamed of becoming a pilot, according to India Today.
On Saturday, a neighbor saw the young man on the terrace of his apartment building apparently taking a selfie video. The witness then watched the boy jump to his death.
“The parents have not given any information on the reason of suicide, they are in state of shock,” Officer Navinchandra Reddy said. “We are investigating the case in all possible angles.”
At least two young people have lost their lives to the game in the U.S. thus far.
One of them was 14-year-old San Antonio resident Isaiah Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s body was found by his dad in early July, 2017. He was hanging in a closet and his phone was propped up on a nearby shoe — broadcasting the suicide to the world.
Isaiah’s family found evidence that he had been participating in the challenge after looking at his phone.
They saw that he had been sending pictures to his friends when he completed a task.
“It talks about satanic stuff and stuff like that and my son was never into that,” Isaiah’s father, Jorge, told WOAI. “They blew it off like it was a joke and if one of them would have said something, one of them would have called us, he would have been alive.”
His death came less than a week after a 16-year-old girl in Atlanta killed herself while playing the game.
“It’s a real thing,” the girl’s brother told CNN. “I lost my sister to it, or at least part of it. I would say by the looks of everything we found it’s a major part of it.”
As the game’s popularity grows, law enforcement officials, schools and parents are working to spread awareness about the frightening trend.
One expert reminded concerned parents that the online landscape is always evolving, so it’s better to teach kids a broad social media literacy than focus on any particular trend.
“You can imagine another trend might come up at any time, so instead of trying to catch every trend, a better approach might be to improve social media literacy,” Dr. Jane Pearson of the National Institute of Mental Health told CNN. “To help kids understand how to manage it.”
Instagram is also taking steps to prevent similar deaths. When users search for the challenge, the platform shows a message deterring you from looking at the posts.
“If you’re going through something difficult, we’d like to help,” it says, with a link to helpline numbers and suicide prevention tips.
Next, read about the pregnant teen who fatally shot her boyfriend in a botched viral video attempt. Then, lear about the teen convicted of manslaughter after texting her boyfriend to kill himself.