App Uses Machine Learning to Detect Suicide Risk

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • A high school senior, Siddhu Pachipala, is developing an app that uses AI to detect warning signs of suicide.
  • The app, SuiSensor, could predict suicide risk with 98% accuracy using a sample study.
  • Experts warn about data privacy concerns and using AI before research into the technology is complete.
  • The app is not currently available for download, but Pachipala hopes to continue working on it as an undergraduate next year.

High school senior Siddhu Pachipala uses teens’ digital footprints to detect early warning signs of suicide. The app uses artificial intelligence to comb data and look for risk factors.

Often it’s hard to spot early warning signs of suicide, including persistent feelings of hopelessness, changes in mood, and sleep patterns. In an interview with NPR, Pachipala said the goal is to get people help before it’s too late.

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Judges from the Regeneron Science Talent Search found that Pachipala’s work “suggests that the semantics in an individual’s writing could be correlated with their psychological health and risk of suicide.”

Concerns about technology

Although the app can help many people, some data privacy experts are concerned about how machine learning will work with the data.

Matt Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, who studies self-harm in young people, told NPR that he used electronic health records and AI to identify suicide risk. A lot of the predictions were false positives. “Is there a cost there?” Nock said. “Does it do harm to tell someone that they’re at risk of suicide when really they’re not?”

Researchers acknowledge that it is crucial to do everything possible to prevent people from harming themselves. However, AI-backed tools can cause more harm than good and lead to punishment instead of help.

Still, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in the U.S.; finding help is a top priority for medical professionals.

“Technology is going to help us, we hope, get better at knowing who is at risk and knowing when,” Nock said. “But people want to see humans; they want to talk to humans.”

How the app can help

SuiSensor offers a self-assessment for suicide risk that then connects users with advocates and mental health professionals.

“I think we don’t do that enough: trying to address [suicide intervention] from an innovation perspective,” Pachipala said. “I think that we’ve stuck to the status quo for a long time.”

Diall, a mental-health awareness and content app, is also trying to revolutionize how we think about mental health. The app offers tools and resources to help people. Diall is working to create an inclusive community with mental health resources, free of stigma and open to everyone. Like Pachipala, the founders of Diall realized they needed to create something accessible for everyone to help more people.

Psychologist Nathan Demers told NPR that personalized tools could help people who do not see the early warning signs. Demers says that taking this tool could help the public and become a key innovation for mental health self-awareness.

Psychologist Nathan Demers told NPR that personalized tools could help people who do not see the early warning signs. Demers says that taking this tool could help the public and become a key innovation for mental health self-awareness.

Alex Kerai
Written by
Alex Kerai
Alex began writing for student newspapers and has managed to turn that into a career. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote about small businesses for Biz2Credit and Business.org. Before that, he spent time in communications for higher education institutions, created marketing materials for nonprofits, and worked for entertainment companies in Los Angeles. Today, he reports on emerging consumer trends and his work can be seen on The Penny Hoarder, SafeWise, Business.org, Reviews.org, Move.org, WhistleOut.com, CableTV.com, HighSpeedInternet.com, and SatelliteInternet.com. When he's not writing, Alex watches too much TV, plays guitar, reads and writes fiction, and goes on nature walks.

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