BENGALURU: If you think the conversation around the Blue Whale Challenge has died down, then you might have to think again. Bengaluru has recorded 93,800 “Blue Whale” keyword searches on an average, every month till date, according to data.
A group of concerned Bengalureans have started a mental health project along with Color of Grey Cells, a movement therapy centre based out of the city, to address why the suicide-game went viral. The project, called Project Re-search, and the website called Beyond the Blue Whale, was launched early-November last year.
Ever since, typing the search words ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ takes you to this website on mental health. Supported by Google ads, the website has about 180 visitors every day.
CE talks to the team — namely Anshuma Kshetrapal, founder, Colour of Grey Cells, and PG Aditya and Ishtaarth Dalmia of Project Re-search.
What made you think of this website?
The average Indian adult sees no ‘need’ to learn about mental-health. But this attitude is one of the reasons why the Blue Whale Challenge gained its virality. We need to raise awareness about poor mental health and the effect this has, especially on children. Also, our society and its institutions are not equipped to handle the rapid technological change Internet has brought about. The net was being abused with real-world consequences, which people could not comprehend, one of them is the rise in number of suicides.
How did you get started?
We started as soon as we came to hear about Blue Whale Challenge. We realised that mental health conditions are amongst the least-searched topics in India when compared to the rest of the world, though 57% of the search volume for ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ came from our country. These weren’t adolescents looking for the game, but adults looking to learn more about it. And because the news around it was so sensationalised, the first page of search results barely showed any content that pointed towards the challenge’s obvious links to mental health. This started us on a mission to shift people’s attention to these subjects.
This got us started on a mission to shift people’s attention to these subjects.
Tell us the ‘re-search’.
The project’s purpose is to deflate the number of searches on one particular Google search term (Blue Whale Challenge related), and use it to inflate it for the terms relevant to mental health. Basically, Project Re-search is hijacking Google Search for good.
India records highest number of adolescent suicides, do you think we are more vulnerable to Blue Whale and similar games?
Absolutely. The pressure Indian children face is immense. This gives them more reason to seek an outlet, sometimes dangerous ones. Plus, digital media opens up opportunities to cheat people who don’t know how to use it. This is a condition we see today, with people seeking attention for what they do online.
One of key challenges was narrowing down the focus to seven mental-health issues that concern adults. Data from Google was critical to ensure we could target them in the right locations wherever they were. We are a passionate group of Internet users, and our partners are part of the medical community.
Has this helped so far?
This initiative is, in a very real way, orchestrating the rise of Google Search volumes around mental health in India, with a quantifiable impact. Since the initiative, search interest for ‘Juvenile aggression’ has increased by 100%; ‘anxiety in children’ has increased by 50% and ‘Bullying in schools’ has increased by 34%.
The fundraiser for the initiative is online, and one can contribute directly towards running the campaign.