Facebook Usage May be Able to Predict Risk of Suicide

Photo Credit: Shutterstock If you’ve been thinking about killing yourself, your social media might give you away. An initiative called the Durkheim Project will use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to identify common words and phrases among those who might be contemplating suicide.

The program, which launched on July 2, currently targets only veterans, who have disproportionately high suicide rates. Veterans opt into the Durkheim Project, which installs an app on computers, iOS and Android devices. These apps keep track of what users post and upload it to a medical database. A medical AI monitors the data in real-time, picking out patterns that might lead to self-harm.

The Durkheim Project app monitors content from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in addition to storing information from a user’s mobile device. A database at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University will keep track of users’ locations and text messages, and will not share any information with third parties. Additionally, the system will be guarded by a firewall to ward off would-be hackers.

“The study we’ve begun with our research partners will build a rich knowledge base that eventually could enable timely interventions by mental health professionals,” said Chris Poulin, principal investigator on the project, in a statement. “Facebook’s capability for outreach is unparalleled.”

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