Spurt in teen suicides sparks fears of online 'death groups'

Spurt in teen suicides sparks fears of online 'death groups'
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Kalpetta: Malicious online ‘death groups’ on popular social networking sites that goad teenagers into killing themselves are causing panic among parents in Wayanad after a string of teen suicides over the past one month.

A thorough investigation into the death of two youngsters at Kaniyambetta, near here, who took their lives in an identical manner, has been launched in the wake of the suspicion raised by their parents that their sons could have been victims of online ‘death groups’ fueling suicidal feelings.

The probe was initiated based on a complaint filed by the relatives of Muhammed Shamas, 17, son of Kadavan Subair and Rasheeda, who committed suicide by hanging at his residence last week. Shamas’ close friend Muhammed Shebin, 17, had also ended his life by hanging himself last month.

Following the duo’s death, some of their friends had been showing symptoms of depression and anxiety, raising suspicions that secret social media groups might have influenced the vulnerable youngsters to take their own lives.

The police checked the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the victims and it was found that they were active members of groups that glorify suicide and solitude.

When the first teenager took the extreme step, his friend had posted the following lines on his Facebook page: “I will be joining you soon.”  A day before he hanged himself, the latter also sent a message to his friend asking him ‘will you come to visit me after I’m dead?”

Both the victims were ardent fans of musical albums with depressing content. According to their family members, they played songs at full blast in their room while killing themselves using a rope.

A week before Shebin’s death, Nisam, 16, son of Kattakalan Moosa of Panamaram, who had run away from home, was found dead in an unoccupied house at Choottakadavu near Mananthavady. He hanged himself after scribbling the names of five people, who likely pushed him to take the extreme step, on the wall of the house.

It is said that both Shamas and Shebin were his acquaintances. Following the latest developments, there is a demand to probe the mystery behind Nisam’s death as well.

“Close friends of Shamas have revealed that 13 others in their friend circle are members of such groups. We have lodged a complaint with the Kambalakkad police station seeking a detailed probe into the matter,” said Kaniyambetta panchayat president Hamsa Kadavan, who is also a relative of Shamas.

The police have decided to identify the teenagers who are said to be members of the so-called social media ‘death groups’ and provide counselling to them with the help of psychologists and their teachers.

“We will also conduct awareness programmes in coordination with residence associations and ward-level Jagratha Samitis (vigilance committees) against the misuse of social networking sites,” said Kalpetta DySP Prince Abraham.

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