Can Digital Technology Prevent Suicides?

Posted on May 15, 2017

Psychiatric disorders are strong predictors of a higher mortality risk and account for a significant number of years lost to premature mortality across most populations. The increased risk of mortality is due to the increased likelihood of suicide for which the Global Burden of Disease reports to be the 13th leading cause of death.

Although the presence of a psychiatric disorder is a major risk factor for suicidal behaviour, it isn’t the only risk factor. Studies have shown that suicidal behaviour can come about through an individual’s genetic disposition, the impact of stressful life events, or psychological factors such as feeling hopelessness or having high emotional reactivity.

For most psychiatric disorders there are evidence-based treatments available that can prevent or reduce the risk of suicide. However, suicide rates have remained unchanged and this is in part by the lack of understanding of how the complex interplay between mental illness, its comorbidities and other psychosocial and biological factors influence suicidal behaviour and suicide.

References

Digital suicide prevention

Vahabzadeh et al., Digital suicide prevention: can technology become a game-changer? Innov Clin Neurosci, 2016.

Predicting suicides after psychiatric hospitalization in US Army soldiers

Kessler RC, Warner CH, Ivany C, et al. Predicting suicides after psychiatric hospitalization in US Army soldiers: the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (Army STARRS) JAMA (Psychiatry) 2015;72(1):49–57

Automated speech analysis predicts psychosis

Bedi et al., Automated analysis of free speech predicts psychosis onset in high-risk youths. NPJ Schizophrenia, 2015.