Can AI Assist in Suicide Prevention?

Can AI Assist in Suicide Prevention?

There is a roughly one-in-five chance an individual will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. Moreover mental illness can strike anyone — even popular celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Michael Phelps, and Lady Gaga have spoken of their struggles. Figures from nonprofit organization Mental Health America show the severe depression rate for US youth increased from 5.9 to 8.2 percent over the last five years. For reasons ranging from non-diagnosis to social stigmas, more than half of the 43 million Americans who suffer from some form of depression have received no treatment for their condition. The numbers provide a sobering glimpse of the shortcomings in mental health care, and some researchers are suggesting AI might be able to address the problem. AI Scientists and the Story of 662 Prevented Suicides “ I witnessed their pain and despair,” says AI scientist Zhisheng Huang, a tenured professor at the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and a professor at Beijing’s Capital Medical University. In March 2018 Huang invented a “tree hole bot” that eavesdrops on the dark corners of social media — discussion boards where the severely depressed post their suicidal thoughts and plans. Huang says the tree hole bot captures suicidal confessions with 82 percent accuracy. It classifies potential suicide markers on a 1-10 grading scale and sends Huang and his volunteer team an alert when the severity exceeds level 6. Over the past year the tree hole bot has flagged cases such as a woman who wrote “Anyone want to jump in the river with me?” and another who live-streamed herself swallowing 60 sleeping pills on her social media feed. Both were rescued through notification of police and/or family members.The Tree Hole Rescue Group says that as of August 2019 it had stopped 662 people […]

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