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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 35  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 231-237

It is a rumour-panic: A sociopsychological case-study of the media-spread of the “Blue whale” suicide game and the responses to it in India

Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Kollam, Kerala, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. G S Ramkumar
Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Kollam - 691 574, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijsp.ijsp_103_18

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A rumour about an internet-based “Blue Whale” suicide game has spread across the globe and teenager suicides attributed to it have been reported from many countries. Beginning on July 31, 2017, many cases were reported from India, triggering much public alarm. Based on a theory of rumour panic, this article is an exploration of its local spread in India by examining the media reports connected with it. The psycho-social responses from professionals are elaborated. Key observations are: Blue Whale in India was a perceived threat, the social responses to it were mediated by a rumour-panic and individual behavioral responses to it had features of imitative contagion and wrongful attribution. The media played as the major vehicle for the spread of the rumor, and there were iatrogenic effects in the professional responses to it. The implication for professionals and authority figures with media presence is to diligently fact check before risk communication. Media personnel need to adhere to guidelines on suicide reporting to avoid harm from reportage per se.

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