As regular visitors to my site will know, I am passionate about the subject of mental health, especially when it comes to better understanding it and exploring ways to combat/solve/help/address (not sure of the best verb here) it.
I suppose one could argue that suicide is the most extreme – and troubling – form of mental health problems/issues/dilemmas (again, a semantics question). As someone I met years ago once stated ever-so bluntly: “If you think you know what rock bottom is, think again. Rock bottom is death.”
Writing for @futurism, Dom Galeon posted a piece titled “Machine Learning Is Aiding in the Fight Against Mental Illness” that is equal measure “morning call” (as they say in Korean) and equal measure bastion of hope.
Per the article:
“[A] team of researchers from several institutions including Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University developed a machine learning algorithm trained to understand neural representations of suicidal behavior, and it works with a regular functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).”
The evidence can be seen in these images:
So, why, you might ask, is it critical to rely more heavily on AI for identifying suicidal tendencies? Because of this:
“At present, the best way to anticipate suicidal behavior is to directly ask a person if he’s ever thought about it. However, that’s not entirely accurate, as studies have shown that almost 80 percent of people who committed suicide denied having had suicidal tendencies during their last appointment with a mental health professional. This new algorithm can help address this issue.”
Even science has its limitations, though. As Dr. Marcel Just from Carnegie Mellon puts it,
“It would be nice to see if we could possibly do this using EEG, if we could assess the thought alterations with EEG. It would be enormously cheaper. More widely used.”
But, Dr. Just adds,
“If somebody didn’t want others to know what they are thinking, they can certainly block that method. They can not cooperate. I don’t think we have a way to get at people’s thoughts against their will.”
Thus, it’s still up to us as friends, family members, colleagues, loved ones, and humane humanoids to reach out in the oldest way possible: by talking; by listening; and by empathizing with, not judging, others in their time of need.