Those suffering from mental illnesses are expected to recover as soon as possible and to do so amid harsh negativity. They are ridiculed and told that others have it worse when they are trying to cope with getting out of bed each day. Under such reproachable circumstances, the world has been introduced to the Blue Whale gameThe Internet. It is possibly the most powerful tool of the 21st Century, and as everyone is now aware, has both positive and negative undertones. A lot of us have been constantly bombarded on our Facebook feeds and our Whatsapp chats about a new online game by the name of ‘Blue Whale’ that seems to harbour the dark facets of self-harm, mutilation, insanity, and the grim spectre of death. Though most of us are least concerned with such internet phenomena and consider it nothing more than a fad. However, those of us who are wiser and have more forethought have identified a pattern which has shocked and horrified us to the core.Mental illness has always been ridiculed in society. People view it as a weakness rather than an medical condition, despite Hippocrates’ characterization of depression (or as it was referred to back then, melancholia) as a physical imbalance. In the 18th Century, depression was finally laid down to be an illness. However, even with this classification, the public found those suffering from the disease to be weak and pathetic. The population at large expected the depressed to recover by themselves, treating it as an insult to what they called ‘real diseases’. This attitude persists till today, and causes further harm to the victims. Those suffering from mental illnesses are expected to recover as soon as possible and to do so under harsh negativity. They are ridiculed and told that others have it worse when they are trying to cope with getting out of bed each day. Under such reproachable circumstances, the world has been introduced to the Blue Whale game. Blue Whale was created by a Russian man in 2013. He was abused by his mother and his brother in his childhood which resulted in him developing antisocial tendencies. When asked why he would do such a terrible thing, he replied that it was so that he could cleanse the world of the weak and those he had no use for.When the game led to a Russian man taking his life in 2015, the creator was arrested, but the game was here to stay. Allegedly, it is managed by 20 administrators. No one knows for sure but they are rumoured to be master hackers, and have evaded all attempts to be shut down. In its wide proliferation, the terrifying phenomenon has made its way across the borders of India and Pakistan. The game demands of you to start mutilating yourself on your arm each night and send video proof to the administrators who are on video call with the players. The administrators ask them to do insane tasks such as going to the tops of high buildings and other structures at exactly midnight, and asking the players to play depressing music and watch horror movies which the game administrators send to the players themselves. Such acts negatively stimulate the Prefrontal Cortex of the brain, the region associated with both positive and negative emotions. On day 50, as it is rumoured, the mutilations on the player’s arm will resemble the structure of a blue whale, and it is on that day that the administrators will suggest that the player to take their own life by jumping off a high building, a request they are usually happy to oblige by then.Thankfully, no suicides have been reported in Pakistan that match this modus operandi yet. However, the purpose of this article is not to discuss what we already know. It is to point out the pattern that has emerged.When the hackers are looking for new players, they are looking for the weakest and the most vulnerable of us, the ones who have lost all hope. Once the game is initiated, the player cannot quit it since the hackers have all of their personal information including where they live and can ask for their more “obedient” players in that area to go to them and inflict harm on them and their loved ones. The saddening thing is, we joke about depression as if it is akin to being sad. Even people who are just generally upset about some minor, insignificant event often label themselves as ‘Clinically Depressed’. But depression is a chronic disease. The fifth and most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (also referred to as DSM V) published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013 lays down detailed symptoms for depression; including the physical inability to get up in the morning, loss of interest in activities which the patient was previously fond of, significant weight loss or gain, sleep disturbance, muscle movements either speeding up or slowing down (psychomotor agitation), a chronic sense of worthlessness, a diminshed ability to think, concentrate or make decisions, recurrent thoughts of death and suicide, and feeling as if people would be better off without them.Along with this, DSM V also lays down other detailed criteria for depression, which includes that the episodes must last at least 2 weeks long, cannot be precipitated by drug use, not to be better explained by bereavement (such as the loss of a loved one) and not to be meeting the criteria for other mental disorders.However, the growing trend among millennials today is that everyone is feeling some degree of worthlessness and sadness, and they then self diagnose themselves as being depressed. This creates a wide sea of people who claim to be depressed with only a few cases being genuine. These people do a great disservice to those who are genuinely depressed. And, sadly it makes these individuals even more vulnerable to those who would prey on them, such as the administrators of the blue whale game.In conclusion, I want to talk about how people could help anyone suffering from depression. Most people feel that, by pestering someone to open up to them, they could ‘cure’ them of their depression. Nothing could be further from the truth. Depression is a legitimate disease, and while all medical practicioners haven’t been able to reach conclusions regarding all its facets, most agree that it is charecterised by a chemical or electrical imbalance or disturbance in the brain. When left untreated for a long time, it can even physically damage the brain permanently, making it harder for the patient to recover as well as permanently affecting his or her cognitive function and memory. The world is in desperate need of more education regarding the subject, and our country is one of the ones which needs it most of all. If this doesn’t happen it won’t be long till we see the blue whale game claim more lives. The writer has done his A-Levels from Aitchison College and wants to pursue a career in medical science. He is based in Lahore Published in Daily Times, September 29th 2017.