A dangerous social media game that reportedly emerged in Russia has purportedly claimed the life of at least one teenage victim in the United States. The family of a 16-year-old girl in Georgia thinks “The Blue Whale Challenge” led their daughter to take her own life. According to various reports, the challenge/game encourages teens to do a number of tasks over the course of 50 days, the final task being committing their own suicide.

While definitive details about the origins and organizers of the challenge/game are still unfolding and none of the deaths have been definitively linked to this challenge, studies show youth suicide rates are rising and pressures from school and the Internet are commonly referenced in the cause. This apparent trend raises questions about how parents, teachers and other adults can identify youth at risk for suicide and help implement preventative interventions, as well as help them navigate safely through the ever-alluring world of social media.

If you are currently working on a new or follow-up story about The Blue Whale Challenge or are interested in crafting a story about suicide prevention among youth, I’d be more than happy to help you schedule an interview with Penn Medicine psychology expert, Dr. Thea Gallagher.

Thea Gallagher, Psy.D. is the clinic coordinator at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA) in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At the CTSA, Dr. Gallagher currently coordinates the OCD treatment study, and is a study therapist. Clinically, Dr. Gallagher specializes in Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) for PTSD, Exposure and Response (Ritual) Prevention (EX/RP) for OCD, and cognitive-behavioral treatments for mental health illnesses,  including but not limited to stress, anxiety, OCD, trauma, phobias, suicide, panic, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, self-harm, addiction related to history of trauma or self-medicating in general, children and adults with anxiety, mental health stigma, physical health problems as connected to mental health problems, and the connection between physical and mental health in general. Dr. Gallagher focuses on a basic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) conceptualization as most of what is known about mental health indicates that there is a strong connection between our thoughts and behaviors and emotions and environment. 

Dr. Gallagher is available for phone or on-camera interviews.