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BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington-based behavioral health provider has treated about a dozen youths who have participated in “The Choking Game” in the past year.

“We’ve never experienced a death from this in our program or with the kids we are currently working with, however, we are aware that there are many deaths each year across the country,” said Mychele Kenney, Chestnut’s corporate director of youth services.

Emergency department physicians at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and OSF St. Joseph Medical Center haven’t treated teenagers who participated in the dangerous activity.

“The Choking Game” — which also goes by “Pass Out” and other names — has been around for years among high-achieving teens who seek a high without drugs or alcohol. But the number of youths dying from playing the game — perhaps as many as 1,000 nationwide each year — has increased as more children have participated in the activity alone, according to Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play (www.gaspinfo.com).

Young people might participate for the same reasons that some people do drugs — because it’s dangerous, it’s an escape and their peers encourage it, Kenney said.

The “game” involves young people strangling themselves or others. When they release the pressure, oxygen-rich blood rushes back into the brain, giving the person a brief feeling of lightheadedness, she said. But maintaining strangulation too long can cause injury, brain damage or death.

Parents should look for bruising around the neck or chest, complaints of constant headaches, teens who want to spend time alone, are confused or wearing clothes that cover the neck, Kenney said.

Parents should maintain open communication with their children, including knowing what their children are doing and who their friends are, and encourage involvement in healthy activities, said Kenney and Alan Markwood, Chestnut’s corporate director of prevention services.

If a parent learns that one of their child’s friends has been involved in “The Choking Game,” parents should express concern and discuss dangers of the game without too much detail, Markwood said. Parents must find out what their child thinks about the game without expressing curiosity about game details, he said. Listen, show you care and leave no doubt that your opposition is out of concern for your child, he said.

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