A disturbing nationwide trend
On a summer evening early in July, our friend and neighbor reported their ten-year-old boy was missing. Twenty-four hours later, the county search and rescue found the boy dead. He was hanging by a rope inside a homemade tree house. Initially, we were terrified the incident was a playground equipment-related fatality. Later, we found out the worst. It was self-inflicted, but not suicide. This ten-year-old boy had been playing the “choking” game. It is also known by other names like the pass-out game, the fainting game, tingling, something dreaming, space monkey, funky chicken, flat-liner game and some older children have even called it suffocation roulette.
This disturbing nationwide trend is being played even by young children using belts, ties, bags, ropes, or even bed sheets placed over their heads or around their necks. This reduction in the flow of oxygen to the brain and heart reduces blood pressure causing the body to shut down beginning the process of death. When the pressure from the choking is suddenly relieved, oxygen rushes to the head and brain giving the individual a “rush” or “high” feeling. One child, when interviewed by the national news media said, “You kind of pass out for a few seconds, it’s a weird sensation that’s awesome.”
Oddly enough, when investigators inquired into the hanging case of our neighbors’ boy, the children admitted they knew about the game and many had played it. The grown-ups – on the other hand – had no idea that dozens of elementary age children had played the game or at least knew someone who had. This was a real awakening, and it has been found that we aren’t the only community affected by this strange behavior. All across the nation, children are playing and many are dying from self-inflicted asphyxiation.
Sarah Pacatte lost her son Gabriel to the choking game. He was showing signs of marijuana. His personality changed. He had bloodshot eyes. When confronted, Gabriel told his family not to worry, “I’m not taking drugs or drinking.” In an interview, Sarah spoke about the risky behavior and its strong appeal. “It’s almost like a drug. They crave it. They crave the high they get from lack of oxygen. Some kids are fascinated by this strange and dangerous play. It’s something that is not talked about. It’s not well known, and there’s a lure to that.”
Other parents of children who have died from this never recognized any of the signs such as bloodshot eyes, severe headaches, and marks on the neck, closed doors, ropes tied to the bed or closet door. Tammy Dunn, mother of 13-year-old Chelsea, wishes she had spotted such signs. “I blame myself,” she says of the night when Chelsea retired to her bedroom for the night. Alone in her room, she used a belt to play the game. Unable to release herself from the belt she hung to her closet door, Chelsea accidentally hung herself. “Maybe I should have known, maybe I should have checked in on her, but I’m angry with her. I’m angry that she made those choices that she made that took her from us,” said Tammy.
Children and teens do not fully realize they are killing brain cells, weakening body organs and according to one report from www.lungdiseases.about.com, hundreds of children have died from the game and the numbers are rising. This risky and life-threatening behavior has no place in our society. As community leaders, concerned citizens, parents, and educators, it is our duty to be aware of these types of behaviors and do something about them. Research this awful game, implement a safety awareness program to combat it and above all, talk to your own children. Organize forums as some communities have to educate children and parents about the dangers. We need to change what it is called, so children do not think it is “a game” without thoughts of potential hazards.
The time is now to do something about this. Just days after the tragic death of the boy in our neighborhood, at a park in a nearby town, a woman was alerted by her daughter to the fact that four children — ages 7 to 10 years — were “playing the game.”