“I didn’t know anything about Blue Whale. But then I searched it on internet and found lots of references and realised my daughter had been following the game. When I saw how it ended, my heart froze.” These are the words of a mother from Marbella, speaking under the pseudonym of Maria, describing how she felt on discovering her teenage daughter had been doing a series of disturbing challenges set out by the online suicide game, Blue Whale.
This is the first case of its kind to be reported in Andalucía, and luckily Maria has been able to intervene before her 14-year-old daughter potentially carried out the last and most chilling of the 50 challenges: “Jump off a tall building. Take your life.”
However, other parents have not been able to interrupt the process as the game is estimated to have incited the suicides of up to 130 teenagers in Russia, Maria’s home country, and is also known to have affected vulnerable teens in other parts of Spain.
Maria hopes that by telling her story she can warn parents about the “game”, as she believes they are the only people capable of “rescuing” their child once they have begun the series of challenges.
The concerned mother had noticed that her daughter’s academic performance had deteriorated recently, but her suspicions were raised considerably when her daughter opted to wear a long-sleeved shirt to a pool party on a hot day, when everybody else was wearing swimsuits.
“It seemed really strange to me,” she said, “I grabbed her wrist and I saw ‘F57’.” The teenager had carved a code associated with the game into her left wrist with a sharp object, possibly a knife. “I asked her what it meant and why had she harmed herself like this, but she didn’t answer,” Maria explains.
Maria’s daughter was speaking on the phone to her aunt, who lives in Russia, when her mother spotted the F57 ‘tattoo’. Her aunt overheard Maria’s questions, and, knowing that F57 was associated with the Blue Whale suicide game, she asked her to pass the phone to her mother.
Never out of sight
After searching “Blue Whale” on the internet to learn more about why her daughter had been behaving unusually, Maria describes her horror when she saw how the game ended. She then called another Russian relative, who is a police officer. “He told me that it was an extremely dangerous game, that I should not let her out of my sight for even one minute, that I should go to the police immediately,” she explains.
On returning home from the police station at the beginning of this month, Maria then discovered another three cuts on her daughter’s left forearm, which had seemingly been there longer than the F57 cut. “I tried to speak to her but she closed up completely and wouldn’t touch the subject. I mentioned ‘Blue Whale’ and she clammed up. The only thing she would say was that F57 was a lucky number,” said Maria.
The worried mother asked why then hadn’t she just used a marker pen instead of scarring her wrist, to which her daughter replied, “I had to do it this way.” But when Maria asked who had instructed her to do it “this way”, the young girl became silent again.
While Maria continued to try to talk to her daughter, the family searched for clues on the girl’s social media accounts. The police officer in Russia found two photos that had been uploaded to Instagram which caused more distress for the family.
One photo shows the girl, with her back to the camera, standing on the wall of a derelict house, with her arms raised to create a cross-like shape. The other photo has clearly been taken from the rocks of a cliff in the Calahonda area, and shows the girl floating face down in the sea without moving. “From what I have read, I think it symbolises the dead whale,” said Maria who believes both photos have been taken to complete two of the sinister 50 challenges set out by the game.
Since the day she discovered the F57 symbol and the photos, Maria still hasn’t got any answers from her daughter. “Someone must have helped her. I don’t know who took these photos, nor when they were taken.”
Maria explains how her daughter very rarely went out alone: “She’s always so busy, with school and training sessions, and I take her to those,” she says. “The only thing she does alone is walk the dog,” Maria adds. “There were a couple of days when she was gone for longer than usual, but I didn’t think anything of it.”
In fact the teenager hasn’t even got a mobile phone - “it broke some time ago” - and she is only allowed to use internet for homework. Now her parents have also stopped her from using her Instagram account.
The mother says that she is very grateful for all the help that has been provided by her daughter’s school and psychologist and hopes sharing her experiences will help to prevent this happening to anyone else. “Parents need to be on top of what their children are doing on the computer because when they open that window we don’t know what they’re going to find.
“I try to make my daughter understand that the internet is a Pandora’s box, that we don’t know who is on the other side. I tell her that I love her very much, that she is my life and I can’t lose her, and she just responds, ‘Don’t worry mum, I’m not going to do anything’,” Maria says.