It was back in early May when South African publications began warning parents of the possibility of the Blue Whale suicide game infiltrating the country.
At the time, there were around 130 deaths worldwide that were potentially connected to the game, first uncovered in Russia in 2015.
The online game works by presenting the user with a daily task assigned by an administrator and the last task, set on the 50th and final day, encourages users to kill themselves.
Although the deaths have not been proven to be directly linked to the game, one family who lost their 16-year-old daughter in May found clues around her room that might suggest she was playing the game when she took her own life.
Special Agent Trebor Randle confirmed that this is the first case in Georgia, USA, potentially related to Blue Whale.
CNN interviewed the family, who want to remain anonymous and explained that she was a “gifted artist, sister, daughter and friend”:
Almost immediately, her devastated older brother, Marty, started going through her things to look for signs. He noticed an unusual pattern among drawings and journal entries, including a small sketch of a girl with a name beneath it in Russian.
An internet search of the name turned up the story of Rina Palenkova, a 17-year-old girl who posted a “goodbye” selfie moments before committing suicide in Russia in November 2015. The photo went viral on the Russian social media site VK.com, and the attention from her death led to the discovery of her supposed involvement with something online called Blue Whale.
But that wasn’t the only clue:
Continuing to research, Marty remembered the picture of the blue whale taped next to the mirror in his sister’s room. He looked through her sketches and found pages of whale drawings and magazine cutouts with the words “I Am a Blue Whale” pasted over them, accompanied by drawings indicating self-harm, suicidal statements with words of goodbye and multiple entries written in Russian.
Marty said the discovery startled him. “None of us knew about the Blue Whale game. I spend a lot of time online and hadn’t come across it until it happened.”
Nadia did an abstract painting of blue whale skeletons for a school project, and the school had it framed and displayed. The painting took on a new meaning in the aftermath of her death.
Nadia’s family also found letters in Russian among her things. Some appeared to be love letters, while others showed signs of correspondence with someone. They don’t know who the letters are directed to or whether that person was involved in Blue Whale.
These writings surprised Nadia’s family the most, since she had never spoken about learning Russian or even being interested in it.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has opened a Child Fatality Review of Nadia’s suicide, and is aware that the drawings and Russian writings may have a connection to Blue Whale.
Why share this story? It’s clear family members who aren’t aware of the game can miss signs:
Google data show that online searches for Blue Whale in the United States began in late February, with interest spiking across the country in mid-May. They may be linked to media coverage in the UK around that time.
The more you know, the more you can help prevent situations like this in one way or another.
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