Machine Learning Can Help Us Get Better: An AI App for Suicide Prevention

The Woodlands College Park High School senior has developed a life-saving app. The Houston-based high school student under the name of Siddhu Pachipala has designed a smartphone application that has the potential to prevent suicide. By scanning text, the AI-based app can spot the signs of suicide risks. Pachipala, the creator of the app feels it might replace current diagnosis methods that are a bit obsolete.

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Illustration: Lenka T

Everything you post on the internet or send to a peer leaves specific digital footprint. For that reason, parents frequently warn their children not to share too much information on the web. One high school senior from Texas, however, believes that footprint might be highly useful, or better to say, life-saving.  

Concerned about the teen suicide, Siddhu Pachipala, a student at The Woodlands College Park High School located in the suburb of Houston, TX, has come up with an ingenuous solution. Namely, Pachipala recognized a role for AI in discovering the risk of suicide before it’s too late.  

What is it all about? 

The teenager feels that kids who are suffering from depression or similar disorders don’t get help on time, when they need it most. Such absence of necessary aid can have detrimental consequences which could have been avoided. 

Fluctuations in mood and sleep patterns, along with the constant feeling of anguish and hopelessness are among the early signs of suicide. Unfortunately, our loved ones frequently fail to spot them.  

To help change this, Pachipala developed an AI-powered app that scans text for suicide risks. As he explained, our writing patterns may reflect what we’re thinking.

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Source: Seeking Alpha

Though he created it for a local science fair, he believes the app has the potential to replace other methods of diagnosis that are a bit out of date. Owing to it, Pachipala received national recognition, won a trip to Washington D.C. and got an opportunity to deliver a speech on behalf of his peers.  

Developing SuiSensor 

The main idea behind Pachipala’s app is that anyone can download it, then take a self-assessment suicide risk. The results the app obtains might help individuals connect with healthcare professionals and advocate for their needs. 

Many a late and sleepless night and coding sessions were spent before SuiSensor arrived.  

By implementing data from a medical study, according to journal entries made by adults, Pachipala claims that SuiSensor can foretell suicide risk with 98% accuracy. Though still a prototype, it can produce a list of local clinicians to contact when necessary.  

Pachipala submitted his research to the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a national scientific and math competition with 81-year-old tradition, in the fall of his final year of high school. He won a prize of $50,000 and finished ninth overall. The app is not downloadable at the moment, but Pachipala anticipates to continue developing it as an MIT undergraduate. 

Why is this necessary? 

In the U.S. as well as globally, the risk and rate of suicide seem to be on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disclosed that, among young adults and youth aged 10 to 24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death. Hence, discovering a way to recognize early symptoms of mental health issues troubling not only young but all people in general is vital for preventing harmful and irreversible consequences.  

While there are schools which indeed implement activity monitoring software which searches for warning signs of a student who could potentially harm themselves or others, such information may not be used properly. Namely, the school might misuse it to punish or discipline students instead of offering help and support.  

AI and machine learning (ML), a subset of artificial intelligence, have already been employed for identifying people who might be at risk of suicide. The problem with ML is that it may generate predictions that are false positives.  

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Source: City of San Hose

With the suicide rate among the young on the rise, students and families keep turning to schools for help and support. By scanning the text and words, Siddhu Pachipala’s SuiSensor is one method for monitoring the state of young people’s mental health.  

However, it’s worth noting that it can’t replace human interaction. Once they recognize the signs of risk, young people may contact one of the clinicians the app provides. Technology might be great at pointing out at the risks, but humans still need human touch.  

Web Mind urges anyone who might be or knows someone who is considering suicide to seek medical help or contact local suicide prevention hotline.  

"Ever tried. Ever failed. Never mind. Try again. Fail better."


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