“There are people – and there is biological waste. Those who do not represent any value for society. I was cleaning our society of such people.” These were the words of Philipp Budeikin, inventor of the infamous ‘Blue Whale’, a game that has claimed hundreds of teenage lives across Asia, Russia and Europe. Budeikin remained calm during his hearing. It is clear from his words that he is not mentally sound, but what about all the children who lost their lives to this trap? Were they suffering from something? It’s possible that all the victims had underlying depression, which Budeikin and his followers took advantage of.
He claimed his psychological manipulation helped his victims; it made them feel happy to die. Adolescents go through various changes physically and mentally which affect their behaviour, emotions and thought processes. They constantly undergo different struggles, the major one being ‘identity crisis’. They constantly ask themselves questions like, ‘who am I?’, ‘Do I have friends?’, ‘Do people like me?’, ‘Am I of any worth?’ This constant introspection of the self makes them susceptible, they end up falling prey to people who show them a little warmth and love.
Recognition for self becomes highly important for adolescents, they want to be seen and heard and liked by the world around and if that doesn’t happen, they think they are lonely. They feel nobody loves them or likes them. There was a girl who came complaining to me that nobody loves her, nobody pays attention to her, that even her parents are too busy to look after her. Thoughts like these can lead to suicide. This is what Budeikin sought in his victims and promised to give them painless death. A deep underlying depression was the ‘whale’ that killed these teenagers.
Parents now have to be on their toes and monitor their children’s digital behaviour, learn democratic parenting ways and avoid harsh discipline, but is there something a teacher can do to make adolescents less vulnerable to such tendencies? The answer is ‘yes’, a teacher is considered a second mother; students spend seven hours of their time in the vicinity of teachers who can observe and modify their behaviour more than anyone else.
Teachers can look out for irritability, frequent complaints about being sick, missing school, poor work completion, pessimistic comments about self, decreased self worth, isolation, withdrawal from activities, peer rejection. What can teachers do if they have students with the above symptoms? Firstly, foster a healthy and supportive classroom, the classroom environment affects the child’s personality a great deal. Regularly check in with the students, this makes them feel that there is someone who cares for them, likes them. Create a bond between you and the students, let there be warmth, this will help you mould them. Don’t single out the student and criticize.
Secondly, help the student identify his/her strengths and weakness and help him/her work on them. Using your rapport with the student you can slowly start working on improving his strengths and diminishing his weakness or convert it as his strength. Thirdly, teach students to manage their stress and help them have a peaceful mind by teaching them how to control their emotions and other coping mechanisms. Encourage the students to be more creative and curious.
Lastly always help them take expert guidance from counsellors or mental health practitioners in your school, as counselling will always help find a lost self and achieve a sense of purpose among the students. Take out the stigma students have when approaching counsellors. These small steps will help adolescents become healthy individuals.
The author is a counsellor at Love Dale Central School, Belagavi. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.