The Weekly Mind Reader: AI-Driven Suicide Prediction

by Staff Writer
June 23, 2023 at 9:05 AM UTC

minor ear anomalies are more common in people with depressive order.

Despite a few dubious forays of artificial intelligence (AI) into the mental health space, the technology demonstrates some potential in psychiatry. A new The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry paper suggests that leveraging an AI model known as natural language processing (NPL) can help predict suicide ideation.

Analysing Risk

The study used a new NPL algorithm called REACH-VET to identify and assess suicide risk among veterans.

To develop the algorithm, the researchers analyzed medical encounter notes from more than 4,500 US veterans who died by suicide. All subjects had at least one VHA encounter. Using a method called Term Frequency–Inverse Document Frequency (TFIDF), they measured the importance of  keyword terms within the context of the entire medical record. 

The findings suggest that REACH-VET has the potential to enhance suicide prevention efforts within the VHA healthcare system. The NLP-based models outperformed the standard EHR model and improved the accuracy of suicide predictions by 19 percent. Specifically, these models were 6 times more effective in pinpointing patients in the highest risk category (top 0.1 percent) compared to other methods. 

However, the researchers noted that the majority of VHA patients that die by suicide do not fit within the high-risk tier. As such, even REACH-VET fails to detect risk among the preponderance of patients who go on to die by suicide.

Fighting the Battle

The researchers said that they conceived this study in response to their concern about high suicide rates among veterans. Nationally, suicide rates for the average population stood at 13.5 per 100,000 in 2020. For veterans, it was 31.7 per 100,000, according to a Veterans Affairs report. 

“Responding to this concern, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has substantially invested in suicide prevention, including establishing the Veterans Crisis Line, staffing designated suicide prevention specialists at each medical center, and establishing suicide prediction and surveillance metrics, helping ensure that individuals receive targeted preventative services,” the researchers wrote. They said they hope their study makes a significant contribution to improving the mental health and well-being among veterans. 


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