Preventing Suicides Through AI
Thu, February 2, 2023

Preventing Suicides Through AI

Researchers aim to use AI to help mitigate the risk of suicide / Credits: GBALLGIGGSPHOTO via Shutterstock


The National Care for the Homeless Council reported that more than half of people experiencing homelessness have had thoughts of suicide or have attempted suicide. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the suicide rate for individuals 10-24 years old increased by 56% between 2007 and 2017. These reports are only a glimpse of why we should all pay attention to this issue. 

This is what Phebe Vayanos, an associate director at USC's Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS), and her team aim to address. The study "Exploring Algorithmic Fairness in Robust Graph Covering Problems," which was presented at the Thirty-third Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), investigated the potential of social connections such as friends, relatives, and acquaintances to help mitigate the risk of suicide.

According to Tech Xplore, an online site that covers the latest engineering, electronics and technology advances, the study aims to use artificial intelligence to help mitigate the risk of suicide. "In this research, we wanted to find ways to mitigate suicidal ideation and death among youth. Our idea was to leverage real-life social network information to build a support network of strategically positioned individuals that can 'watch-out' for their friends and refer them to help as needed," Vayanos said.

The researchers developed an algorithm that can identify who in a given real-life social group would be the best persons to be trained as "gatekeepers.” This can identify warning signs of suicide and how to respond. Thus, the researchers looked at the web of social relationships of young people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. Vayanos stated that they wanted to ensure that a maximum number of people are being watched out for.

“For example, if some of the people in the network are not able to make it to the gatekeeper training, we still want to have a robust support network," he said.