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What Does This Russian Alt-Rock Ballad Have To Do With Teens All Over The World Killing Themselves?

By Lord Castleton | Parenting | July 25, 2017 |

By Lord Castleton | Parenting | July 25, 2017 |

The Russian Band Lumen has a moving song called ‘Burn,’ which touches upon issues of restriction and survival, and is ostensibly about a Blue Whale trying in vain to free itself from a fisherman’s net.

It’s fairly haunting.


Why scream, when no one can hear you?
What are we talking about…
It seems that we haven’t been alive for a long time.
We were lit and will slowly burn out
When there are lots of us we start fires
And the cities look the same, the crematorium and the bazaar
And everyone’s accustomed not to notice anything,
When no one can hear you, what are you screaming for?

We can be silent, we can sing,
Stay or run away, but still we burn,
A big blue whale can’t break the chain.
Surrender or not, but still burn.

Once again, the sky closes in on itself
Words and wires.
And once again the sky spills onto us
Answers and water.
And if you suddenly started to understand something
And from the insight, wanted to scream
Go on, let’s scream, they can’t understand you
None of them want to change anything.

You can be silent, you can sing,
Stay or run away, but still you burn,
A big blue whale can’t break the chain.
Surrender or not, but still burn.
We can be silent, we can sing,
Stay or run away, but still we burn,
Burn, but don’t incinerate, it’s boring to live any other way
Burn but don’t incinerate, burn…to….shine!

From this song, according to various reports, sprung the suicide challenge known as ‘The Blue Whale Challenge’.

It’s the purported brainchild of a 20-something Russian psych major who confessed to its creation when authorities picked him up in November of 2016.

The Blue Whale Challenge consists of 50 secretive steps, with the final challenge achieved only when a challenger ‘successfully’ commits suicide at step 50.

Obviously, this is chilling.

If you’re a parent in this day and age, with ‘13 Reasons Why’ being addressed by schools and public officials en masse, you’re probably more aware than most of the daunting and often enticing escapism that the ideation of suicide presents to teens. Especially teens who are coping with the explosion of hormones and the confusion of adolescence.

Specifically, the gamification of suicide is terrifying.

The original text of the challenge is in Russian, but at least one Reddit user has tried to translate it:

1. On the arm blade cut f57 (blue whale, 4: 20)
2. Wake up at 4:20 and watch scary video
3. Cut lengthwise veins of the arm (not deep) only three cuts
4. Draw a whale on a piece of paper
5. If you’re ready to become a whale you write “yes” kn the blade leg, if not, do with their hands whatever you want (doing a lot of cuts and so on)
6. In code
7. scratched f40
8. Write in the status #I’m a Whale
9. Should overcome your fear
10. Get up at 4:20 and go to the roof
11. It is necessary to scratch out a whale on the hand (or make a drawing on the hand)
12. The whole day watching scary video
13. Listen to music that they send to you
14. Cut the lip
15. Poke the needle arm
16. Make yourself hurt
17. Go to the roof of the largest and stand on the edge
18. Going to the bridge
19. Climb on the crane
20. Check to trust
21. It is necessary to talk on Skype with a whale
22. Sit down on the roof of the feet
23. Again, the job with the code
24. Secret Mission
25. meet with whale
26. You say the date of death, and you must accept
27. 4:20 go to the rails
28. Do not talk with anyone
29. Give an oath that you’re a whale
From 30-49 you every day you wake up at 4:20, watch videos, listen to music, and every day doing one cut on her hand, talking to a whale.

50. We jump (hangs up, jump out of the window, you go under a train, negativeside tablets)

The challenge has recently claimed its first deaths on American soil, with a teen in Georgia reportedly taking the final challenge. As recently as two weeks ago, a fifteen year old Texas boy livecast his own suicide with a phone propped up in the closet as he hung himself.

I can barely hold back the tears as I type that. A fifteen year old boy. My god.

Needless to say, this type of thing has legs. It’s normal to assume that your child is impervious to the morbid draw of this type of game, but the better course of action is to actually talk to them about it.

From the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, here’s a helpful cheat sheet based around the acronym ‘FACTS’ that might help you notice some warning signs if your child is at risk.

FEELINGS that, again, seem different from the past, like hopelessness; fear of losing control; helplessness; worthlessness; feeling anxious, worried or angry often

ACTIONS that are different from the way your child acted in the past, especially things like talking about death or suicide, taking dangerous risks, withdrawing from activities or sports or using alcohol or drugs

CHANGES in personality, behavior, sleeping patterns, eating habits; loss of interest in friends or activities or sudden improvement after a period of being down or withdrawn

THREATS that convey a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, or preoccupation with death (“Life doesn’t seem worth it sometimes”; “I wish I were dead”; “Heaven’s got to be better than this”); plans like giving away favorite things, studying ways to die, obtaining a weapon or stash of pills; suicide attempts like overdosing or cutting

SITUATIONS that can serve as “trigger points” for suicidal behaviors. These include things like loss or death; humiliations, rejections, or failures, getting in trouble at home, in school or with the law; a break-up; or impending changes for which your child feels scared or unprepared

And talking may not even be enough. Sadly, in the case of the 15 year old Texas teen, “Jorge Gonzales, Isiah’s father, tragically had a conversation with their son about the Blue Whale Challenge and Isaiah told his father that he had heard of it, but would never participate.”

Whew. That’s just heart-wrenching. That poor boy. That poor family.

I recently attended a lecture at my daughter’s middle school where a parent of a teen who had committed suicide came to speak. His story made me shudder. He was an attentive parent, “more than most parents, less than others” is how he described himself, and yet, he never knew that his son was contemplating taking his own life.

In his case it was due to a girl at his son’s school showing his private texts to her friends and having them all mock him on social media. The father never knew, and in a matter of weeks, his boy was gone.


Studies show that one in five teens think about suicide at some point. It gets worse if your teen is LGBT, with suicide ideation rising threefold. And if you have a special needs child, those numbers climb even higher. In my case, my eldest child is diagnosed with autism, anxiety and depression. According to this study, kids with an autism diagnosis are 28 times more likely to experience suicidal ideation than neurotypical age-matched peers.

Maybe The Blue Whale Challenge is just a passing trend in the emotional world of teen development, but let’s try to make sure that it indeed passes us all by without taking any of our loved ones with it.

You can find copious resources around teen suicide prevention here and here.

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Lord Castleton is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.