Parent Alert: The Choking Game

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Stay connected to your teenagers.

When Amanda Bryant of Alberta found her nine year-old-son, Kalib, in his bedroom with a belt around his neck eleven days before Christmas, it changed her life and the lives of her family forever. Kalib’s death was initially ruled a suicide. Amanda found it hard to believe that her outgoing, happy child would commit suicide. She began a search for answers

That search led her to another mother whose son had died in an eerily similar way. In California, Sarah Pacatte’s 13-year-old son Gabriel was found by his twin, Samuel on May 6, 2005.

“I saw Gabe with the rope around his neck and a math book on his lap. He was just sitting on the ground. And so I thought he was just joking and so I said Gabe, knock it off, or like quit messing around…I looked over at him and he hadn’t moved. I said his name a couple of times.”

Gabriel was rushed to hospital where he died 15 hours later. He had died playing “the choking game”. Sam remembers playing the game with his brother.                        www.cbc.ca/fifth/chokinggame/

The choking game is voluntary suffocation, to the point of unconsciousness, for the purpose of obtaining a ‘rush’ or light-headed sensation. Pressure is used to cut off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. When the choking pressure is released, blood rushes back into the brain causing a euphoric rush, a momentary physical thrill.

Initially one kid will do it for another, sometimes at a party, and then the kid will seek the sensation again, alone.

Many names are used for this game such as Pass Out, Gasp, Space monkey, Hyperventilating, the Elevator Game, the Funky Chicken, and the American Dream Game.

 “At this point, there is a need for public education,” says Angela Boak, Research Coordinator and Analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. After studying this phenomenon, she believes “parents, physicians and educators should be aware of this game.”

-cited byTawnya Pancharavski, AboutKidsHealth

This is an alert to all parents. Many parents don’t even know the choking game exists and many didn’t suspect their child was doing it until it was too late.

The kids think the choking game is challenging,and  thrilling — without realizing it is dangerous and can be deadly. Typically, they are 9 – 16 years old and are well behaved, good kids. It’s done at school and it’s done at home. Did you know that they can get specific directions on the internet? They do it for fun, to see if they can succeed at it, and to get a high. This behaviour can be addicting.

Every time someone plays this game, their brain cells die. Anytime the brain is deprived of blood and/or oxygen, cells begin to die. Brain cells cannot regenerate. Those brain cells are dead forever. Death of brain cells is actually the least serious effect of this “game”. Broken bones and fractured skulls from falling, blindness, and coma are a few of the consequences. Worse still, unfortunately, some kids who do the choking game have one thing in common – death.

Studies show that 45% of kids knew someone who tried it. 40% of kids perceived no risk. They think it’s just like fainting. They are wrong. It will kill as long as our kids are uneducated — and consider this a game.

Prevention:

Parents need to be alert and vigilant, to be educated about the risks of the choking game,  and to talk to their kids about it. This is an opportunity for closeness and teaching. Just as you talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs, incorporate this topic into those conversations. This is your job. Don’t leave it to anyone else. You could save a life — maybe your own child’s. Even if you didn’t know about this, kids do know. You can initiate the conversation by asking them about it.  Ask them if they tried it or know someone who has.

Warning signs:

  • blood shot eyes
  • marks on the neck
  • wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
  • frequent or severe headaches
  • long periods of time spent alone in the bedroom
  • disorientation after spending time alone
  • ropes, dog leashes, scarves, or belts, tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor.
  • acute vision changes or vision loss

Even as your children get older they still need to experience connection and closeness with you. They still need your counsel and your supervision. Monitor the sites they visit on their computer.

As well, encourage your school to teach parents and students about the risks of this game and the irreversible damage this game can cause.


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