“The Blue Whale” and “13 Reasons Why”: Do They Glorify Suicide? Peru


The suicide of a minor resonates because it attacks supposed certainties, such as that childhood and adolescence are an eternal playground outside the pressure of adult life. The reality is not as pink nor the memories as clean as nostalgia paints them: depression is more frequent among minors than in adults, in a proportion of more than double (20% vs. 8%), according to studies. And if it is not treated, it could become something fatal.

“According to the World Health Organization, in Peru the suicide rate of minors from 5 to 14 years old is 0.6% per 100,000 inhabitants. And in the range of 15 to 29 years old it rises to 4.9% per 100,000 people, “says Yuri Cutipé, a psychiatrist specializing in children and adolescents and director of mental health at the Ministry of Health. In our country we have a low rate of this phenomenon, but being 30 million inhabitants and not 3 million like Uruguay , makes us really talking about an important figure that should not be underestimated.

Stop the world
Suicide is ubiquitous these days. It is discussed whether the act of killing oneself can be trivialized to such an extent that it becomes a game or a fashion. The suspects are two products of this era: the TV series “13 Reasons Why” (Netflix) and the game “The Blue Whale”. The first, which has just been renewed for a second season, is about a schoolgirl who ends her life after having been harassed by her peers and even raped. She says goodbye blaming those who harassed her, leaving messages on cassettes.

“The Blue Whale” is a game that everyone talks about, although the verified information about it is astonishing due to its scarcity. The young participants are subjected to 50 challenges by a person they only know through networks, such as WhatsApp or private Facebook groups. Among those challenges, which must be proven through photos, is making cuts on the arms. The last step is to delete yourself. The game would be behind an epidemic of adolescent suicides in the world, several of them occurred in Russia two years ago, where it started.

It’s not a game.
This week, a cover story in a Lima newspaper about the alleged arrival of “The Blue Whale” at a public school in Los Olivos was denied by the Ministry of Education (Minedu), who through an investigation determined that these are two cases of students with cuts on their arms that have nothing to do with the game. “The two students have stated that, due to family problems they face, they have generated these lacerations themselves two years ago,” the agency said.

The big caveat to “The Blue Whale” and the series dealing with suicide is that they may end up glorifying an issue that experts say should be treated seriously from a mental health perspective. “There is what is called the ‘suicide cluster’, ‘copycat suicide’ or imitation suicide. It was studied a lot in the 80s, in the United States, in areas where after one or two cases of suicide came a wave of these. It is something that can happen. In the case of the series, it is a danger that the suicidal act is given a touch of glamor or romanticism and that it focuses on bullying and does not put it in the context of mental health, “says Michael Kabar, director of the Lima Neurostimulation Institute.

See the full report this Saturday at Somos.

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