How a Hong Kong association is standing up to the “Blue Whale” challenge, an online self-harm "game"

How a Hong Kong association is standing up to the “Blue Whale” challenge, an online self-harm "game"

There’s a dangerous online self-harm challenge circulating social media – and Hong Kong-based Association for Preventing Youth Soc-icide is ready to hijack it


The Association for Preventing Youth Soc-icide is encouraging others to look out for people who may be taking part in the "Blue Whale" challenge.
Photo: Association for Preventing Youth Soc-icide

After a worrying social media challenge began circulating online, several counselling advisors have offered up their suggestions for what to do if you see people you know taking part in it. There appears to be a potential growing interest in the city in the “Blue Whale” challenge, which assigns young people self-harm and suicidal tasks over a 50-day period.

Last week, the Association for Preventing Youth Soc-icide – formed by several young people in the city – launched a “Hijack Blue Whale” campaign. In a Facebook post, the group are encouraging people to be aware of what their friends are doing, and to look out for signs that they might be participating in the challenge – such as posting the phrase “I’m a whale,” being awake at 4.20am, watching horror movies all day, and sporting pictures of whales on their arms. If you see someone who may be exhibiting signs, the group says you should try to discouraging them from participating in the “Blue Whale” challenge.

Cecilia Ng Kam-kuen, the Unit in Charge of the Youth Counselling Centre from the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, says the risks of accepting the social media challenge are immeasurable. “It contains a lot of self-harm tasks, which encourages people to take their own lives,” she said.

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Ng says you should keep an eye out for negative sounding messages from friends and family. “If the messages make them sound like they’re moody or depressed, then encourage them or call them. Show that you care for them and you’re here to support them.”

The Samaritans counsellor Kate Yu told Young Post that the “Blue Whale” challenge can adversely affect the mental and physical health of a person. “It’s worrying – some people might be curious about this challenge, and they might not be aware of the risks involved,” she said.

Yu added that proper and timely intervention is very important, but to try to not sound like you’re accusing them of taking up the challenge. “Be careful how you phrase it. It’s not constructive to sound like you’re blaming someone, as that might intimidate or isolate them. Show them instead that you’re willing to talk and listen.”

Vincent Ng Chi-kwan, the executive director of the Suicide Prevention Service, adds that you should ask them what’s been happening, and truly listen to them. “Ask teachers, parents or social workers for help too, if you see someone who shows signs of doing self-harm,” he added.

There is help out there. These are 24-hour hotlines if you need to talk:

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Standing up to a self-harm challenge


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