The game is “the choking game” and it often begins in middle school. One occludes the supply of oxygenated blood to their brain for short periods and the person experiences a rush, similar to the rush one feels when high on illicit drugs. They feel light headed and woozy. Many teens believe it is an innocent game because no drugs are involved.
The bad news, when adolescents play the choking game alone, it is often during periods of self-gratification to intensify the pleasurable feelings, and called autoerotic asphyxiation, and can easily lead to death. Parents need to talk to children about the deadly outcomes of the game. It is imperative parents NEVER assume that their child is not playing.
There are telltale signs a child is playing the game. These signs include red marks on the neck and around the eyes. When a child dies with a rope tied around his or her neck, and is found hanging from a bed, closet, or in the basement coroners are often mistakenly diagnosing these deaths as suicides.
This is causing confusion for families who feel their child was not suicidal.
Parents become confused and angry when told their child committed suicide. Although, the reality is the choking game is a difficult cause of death for a parent to accept or to understand. Additionally, it does answer some questions for a parent who is certain their child did not commit suicide.
When I attended the Medico legal death seminar in October 2006, I talked with a Sheriff of a small Midwestern town. This Sheriff was also the towns Medical Examiner. The Sheriff had puzzled over a case of a 15-year-old girl’s death for several months. A case he had decided would be ruled a suicide when he returned home from the seminar the next week. That is until he heard about the choking game.
As he sat in the seminar that day the Sheriff realized as he listened to the details of the choking game, this young woman had not committed suicide. He realized she had accidentally asphyxiated herself while playing the choking game while waiting for her clothes to dry. Suddenly, all the details started to come together for him, and everything began to make sense, where her suicide had never made any sense to the family or friends of the 15-year-old girl.
The 15-year-old found hanging in the basement, had been wearing only her underpants. She was getting ready to go out that night, with her friends because as it was her 15th birthday. The Sheriff had felt the scene was all wrong. While investigating her death, things did not seem like a teen suicide, yet at the time, there was no other explanation for what had happened. Now sadly, it all fit together. She had died playing a senseless game.
Parents, ask your children what they know about the choking game. Tell your kids what you know is happening, and explain the dangers of the game. Talk to your kids about how children just like them that are dying when they play this game. Set a ground rule with your children, that if they see anyone playing the game they must tell a trusted grown up immediately.
Other names for this game include those listed below:
• Flat liner
• Fainting Game
• Suffocation Roulette
• Space Cowboy
• Pass-out Game