The asphyxiation is meant to create a “high without drugs” and internet instructions on the practice are increasingly popular in the US and other European countries where several accidents have occurred. But the death of the 14-year-old from Havelland has raised awareness in Germany.
“It can't be assumed that this is the first case here,” Brandenburg Education Ministry spokesperson Stephan Breiding told the paper. “That nothing was registered before can only be attributed to the fact that nothing more serious happened.”
The student was found dead in front of the family computer in Schönwalde-Glien last Friday with a rope around his neck and instructions for the Würgespiel, or the "strangle game" commonly known as the “fainting game” in English, still on the monitor. Police confirmed the death on Tuesday and the boy's funeral was on Wednesday.
Thirteen young people are believed to have died in France from self-strangulation in the last year. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US reported that 82 youths between the ages of six and 19 died this way between 1995 and 2007.
There are countless online descriptions aimed at youth on how to reach a euphoric state through the oxygen deprivation created by self-strangulation.
“Among young people it's thought of as a kick allowing them to test their limits,” Breiding told Berliner Morgenpost.
Brandenburg Education Minister Holger Rupprecht told the paper that the state was initiating an information campaign to help parents and students understand the dangers of the practice.
"It's not a harmless test of courage like jumping from a high tree," Breiding said. “We're talking about a practice that can be deadly.”