A student in Bernards (Somerset County) has died as a result of the “choking game.”
The activity involves children – alone or with others – strangling themselves to get a “rush of euphoria” as they regain consciousness, Superintendent of Schools Nick Markarian told parents in a letter earlier this week.
Also known as “space monkey,” “fainting game” and “flatliner,” kids nine to 16 are most likely to experiment with these types of activities, Markarian says.
The district has not named the student who died.
“Research shows children who experiment with the ‘choking game’ alone often tragically die after the first or second time,” Markarian wrote. “Many of our children have easy access to videos via YouTube depicting others participating in this activity.”
“Early adolescent brains don’t process information in the same manner as adult brains, so children in this age group are not able to fully understand the serious consequences that might result,” he wrote, recommending parents talk with their children about these games and check the search history on their children’s phones, tablets and computers.
“Clues to look for in your home include knots in neckties, belts, ropes, or plastic bags left in bedrooms or other private locations,” Markarian wrote.
Also keep an eye out for such warning signs as bloodshot eyes, broken-blood vessels on the face and eyelids, mood swings, signs of disorientation after being alone, frequent and sometimes severe headaches, and bruises or marks around the neck, he said.
Three other students who attended Bernard’s middle and high school died since March 2016, most recently in February. They have not been identified.
George Scott, statewide resource coordinator for the Traumatic Loss Coalition was invited to discuss how those grieving over the suicide or sudden death of another can recover. He was scheduled to speak Wednesday evening at Ridge High School and the district also launched a crisis prevention page on its website.
Princeton Public Schools is working to address the activity after disturbing chatter about the “game” was overheard from students at John Witherspoon Middle School. According to a member of the municipal Board of Health, seventh-grade boys were taking part in the activity and posting Instagram photos.
New Jersey has seen 45 suicides and 10 accidental deaths related to the “choking game,” reports Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play.
Office of Chief Coroner for the United States identified New Jersey victims of the activity, some as young as seven.
In 2008, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported the “chocking game” was responsible for 82 deaths between 1995 and 2007. It did not have statistics from 2008 to 2017.
The district shared a website that serves as a cautionary tale…
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