(WGGB/WSHM) -- School officials with the Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools confirm that an eighth grader has died. A GoFundMe page for the student’s funeral expenses explained the child was found unresponsive after participating in the ‘blackout challenge’ on social media.
The ‘blackout challenge’ has gone by different names on different social media platforms over the years, but essentially, it’s the same thing. Kids are encouraged to choke themselves until they reach near-unconsciousness.
“One of the things that we know about trauma is there is no rhyme or reason to who experiences what,” said Amherst-Pelham School Supt. Michael Morris.
The community surrounding the Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools is mourning the loss of eighth grade student Nate Squires. A GoFundMe page for the child explains that Squires died on June 12 after participating in the ‘blackout challenge’ - something that has gone viral on social media where people choke themselves until they nearly become unconscious.
While other recent injuries and deaths have been linked to social media, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking choking-related games for decades. A 2008 report from the CDC shows 82 children died from similar challenges since 1995.
"You don't know what your anatomy is or what your blood vessels will do and it makes this much more serious," Dr. John O'Reilly a Pediatrician at Baystate Medical Center said.
Dr. O'Reilly told Western Mass News the challenge can turn dangerous fast.
"It's that stopping of the oxygen. In some kids it might be as little as two or three minutes," Dr. O'Reilly said.
Morris told Western Mass News that emotional support and resources have been organized for the entire district.
“Tomorrow night, we’re working with Riverside Trauma Center. They’ve been here on-site for much of the week as well as one of our other schools and they will be supporting us in hosting an online forum for families to support how to talk about this tragedy with kids how to best support their children,” Morris explained.
Morris said that forum will be on the district’s YouTube channel. He said for the rest of the week, students of any age will have access to counseling at school.
“We’ve also had on-site support, so Riverside, as well as our own counselors and counselors from other districts that are neighboring, have been generous in supporting,” Morris said.
As students head into summer vacation, Morris said his heart goes out to the family.
“For us, it’s really…how do we as a community support each other, support the family, but support the larger community when challenging things happen? There’s not much more challenging than what folks are managing right now,” Morris noted.