Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Responds to the Momo Challenge: A Guide for Community Members & Parents
Due to the "Momo Challenge" resurfacing in news across the U.S. in January, OSPF wants to issue a warning to community members and parents about this new “game”, and how to appropriately talk about it with others. The Momo Challenge is similar to the Blue Whale Challenge, a potentially dangerous internet game that gained worldwide headlines last year.
As a part of the Momo Challenge, children and young adults are contacted by an anonymous avatar called "Momo" via an online app and instructed to participate in a series of tasks, sometimes escalating to violence and self-harm, including suicide. Participants are also reportedly asked to provide photo proof of their acts.
Even though there have been no direct links to suicide attempts or deaths via the Momo Challenge, it is still wise to learn about this emerging trend and how you can appropriately respond to youth suicidality, as well as discuss this challenge with others in your community on social media and/or other outlets.
It is very important to discuss suicide in a safe, responsible manner both publicly and privately in order to reduce the likelihood of presenting false and/or potentially harmful information. This is because misrepresenting information about suicide attempts or suicide deaths can increase the likelihood of suicide contagion (i.e. copycat suicides). Use the link below to Read the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Safe and Effective Messaging for Suicide Prevention. This resource provides easy-to-follow guidance for first responders, schools, and other community organizations seeking to raise awareness of the Momo Challenge and discuss its content in a helpful manner:
For Parents: If you are concerned that your child may be displaying any suicide warning signs, read the following conversation guidelines:
First - In meeting a youth who appears to be depressed, don't be afraid to offer help even if it means only sitting and listening, or offering a shoulder to cry on. Be supportive and non-judgmental. Help the youth vent his or her feelings. Don't try to fix the person’s problems for him/her or offer a solution. Don't attempt to minimize the feelings that the youth is verbalizing even though they may seem small to you. Often, just the process of allowing the youth to talk about his/her problems may provide a significant amount of relief for at least a temporary period. Don't enter into a pact of secrecy with this youth. He or she is aware that you have offered to help and to be there for him or her. By agreeing to not discuss the problem with anyone else, you will be personally conflicted if it becomes necessary to share your information in order to save the person's life.
Second - Ask the youth if he or she is having thoughts of suicide. This is a safe question. Either the person is or is not. Asking the question will not put the thought into his or her head and will not lead to suicide.
Third - In the event that the youth answers the question, "Yes," follow the answer by asking if he or she has an active plan for when and how the plan would be carried out, and whether he or she has the items needed to carry out the plan. If the youth has answered "yes" to this question, it will be important to ensure that he/she begins to consult professional help as soon as possible, voluntarily or involuntarily.
Fourth - Suicidal action is born in a point of crisis at which the emotions and pain experienced by the person become unbearable. The longer the youth can be keep talking and venting his/her feelings, the more likely he or she is to calm to a more rational and self-manageable state. At this point, he or she may be ready to look at the alternatives to suicide.
Fifth - When the youth has calmed to the point where the discussion can begin to turn to the direction of resolving his/her pain by a method other than suicide, action needs to be taken immediately before the degree of pain and despair begins to reappear. This action should take the form of making immediate contact with a professional in order to have the youth evaluated for the risk of suicide. This can be done through a visit to the local hospital emergency room, contact with a local crisis hotline or the National Suicide Prevention Life Line, or a local crisis center visit. In any case, the person should be accompanied until that evaluation is made.
Sixth - If the youth is unwilling to seek help, contact your county suicide or crisis hotline listed HERE. Explain the situation and ask for assistance. If the youth has already begun attempting suicide, notify 911 immediately. Give them as much information regarding the address, the person involved, the method by which the suicide was attempted, and any other information which you have available. Stay with the person until help arrives.
To learn more about the Momo Challenge, and to see what the Momo avatar character looks like, click HERE.
If you are or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 4HOPE to 74741.