Kozhikode: A year ago, most media carried stories of a deadly computer game ‘Blue Whale’ which, like a pied piper, attracted many youngsters into suicide, the world over and in Kerala, too.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and even the police joined the mass sensitisation programme against the deadly game which tempted youngsters, especially school children, to commit suicide as part of the challenges it set for the participants.
Now, a year later, an incident has been reported from Wayanad in which two students committed suicide after being influenced by an Instagram page that mostly posts images and messages related to death and suicide. The police, however, found that all the social media accounts of these deceased teenagers were deleted before they committed suicide.
What forces youngsters turn fireflies and burn themselves in the fiery game? “There are two categories in such suicides,” says Sanjay Kumar Gurudin, an IPS officer who has done extensive studies on cyber crimes and their impact on youngsters. “In one, a person becomes a member of a suicide group. The members of the group enter into a pact and decide to commit suicide on the same day or using the same methods. In the second, some external force is involved, blackmailing or cyber bullying the victims.” Nothing has been confirmed in the case of the Wayanad suicides and the investigation is on, he said.
A close observation of many a suicide of youngsters would reveal the impact of the cyber world on them but society hardly notices it, Mr Gurudin said. “We forget them as cases of suicide which call for no further investigation,” he said. “The cases that popped up with the suicide game Blue Whale and the recent cyber suicide based on an Instagram group indirectly highlight the need to create massive awareness among the students, teachers and parents about the seriousness of the issue.”
The police says more than a thousand youngsters in the state are involved in such social media groups and has since decided to take a list of the recent cases of suicide by youngsters and find the root cause of their deaths. Police also suspects these groups for using depressed youngsters or teenagers with behavioral problems as suicide squads.
According to Dr P.N. Suresh Kumar, head of psychiatry at KMCT Medical College and IQRAA Hospital, the only option left for a parent or a teacher is to speak to their wards or teenagers and observe their behaviors and warn about the signs of depression. “The parents must be more vigilant in monitoring children’s online activity these days,” he said. “If children tend to isolate themselves and are nervous most of the time, then parents should take them to specialists. This state of a person is called emotionally unstable personality disorder. They give frequent suicide threats and even make some attempts. All these signs have been observed in the youngsters who committed suicide at Wayanad, too. It has to be noticed that these youngsters were keenly following all the depressing music albums and even posted them publicly. The role that the Internet, particularly social media, might have in suicide-related behavior is a topic of growing interest and debate.”
Dr Suresh Kumar said the growth and expansion of the Internet has resulted in the broadening of the methods in which people conduct themselves online. “This means criminal activity becomes more complex, advanced, and thought-out,” he said.
It is not just the members of such groups who would show such tendencies. “The group admins of such Instagram or Facebook pages will definitely be people with psychopathic personality,” said Dr Suresh Kumar. “I had recently attended the case of a youngster from Payyoli who started giving suicide threats to his parents. When checked, the wall papers of his computers and mobile phone indicated a tendency to commit suicide. After talking to the parents, I realised that the lack of emotional attachment among the family members is the core reason for such behavioral issues. This is a very common situation in many of the families in our state.”
Experts say Internet provides certain things that help a person with suicide behavioral tendency to take the extreme step. “With advent of social media, things started becoming easy,” said Mr Gurudin. “So many people coming under the same category have started coming close through the social media. Materials, articles and videos which glamourises suicide are available online. Several studies have come out which stated that persons who had watched suicide or read about it are more likely show suicidal tendencies.”
But science has better solutions to them, too. “We have now better qualified counsellors and psychologists to help them. And medicines are easily available, too,” Mr Gurudin said.