In a world where every 40 seconds, a soul succumbs to the darkness of suicide, the battle against this tragedy persists. In Israel, where the annual toll reaches 500 lives, the urgency to combat this issue has become paramount.
In 2003, the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization designated September 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day to bring attention to this pressing issue, reduce its stigma, and bolster awareness. Despite concentrated efforts, the numbers persist, leaving many to ponder: What unexplored avenues remain to extend timely aid to those grappling with this issue?
Dr. Shiri Daniels, Israeli Emotional First Aid Service (ERAN) professional director, acknowledges the formidable challenge even for seasoned psychologists in discerning suicidal tendencies beforehand. However, Professor Avigdor Gal from the Faculty of Data and Decision Sciences at the Technion-Institute of Technology in Haifa believes Artificial Intelligence can help unveil these subtle indicators.
In a dedicated three-day hackathon, 70 students embarked on a mission of discerning suicidal ideation and providing crucial assistance. Meanwhile, Prof. Gal underscored the importance of considering societal repercussions when crafting technological solutions to ensure they align with ethical values.
Hackathons And Students’ Professional Journeys
Hackathons are more than just competitions. They are elements of innovation, preparing students for the challenges that await them in their professional journeys.
At Technion, students from various study tracks converge annually for this very purpose. Sixteen dynamic teams participated in this year’s event, each given a $50 budget to leverage the GPT API.
The data underpinning the hackathon originated from the doctoral student Shir Lisak and master of science student Ilanit Sobol’s research. Their endeavors, overseen by Prof. Roi Reichart in the Natural Language Processing (NLP) lab, focused on discerning online behaviors indicative of suicidal tendencies.
The highest achievement went to a quartet of Ziv Barzilay, Omri Lazover, Liad Domb, and Jonathan Wolloch. Their creation envisions a system that harnesses social media data.
The premise is to target individuals exhibiting signs of suicidal thoughts with relevant ads and banners, reaching the inner circle of those most at risk. This pioneering approach strives to heighten awareness and sensitivity among those closest to such individuals.
In the second place, two groundbreaking methodologies emerged. Idan Horowitz, Lian Fichman, Ariel Cohen, and Shir Geisler explored facial expression recognition and NLP tools to supply real-time insights to mental health professionals through video analysis. This facilitates assessments of emotional well-being and suicidal tendencies.
Meanwhile, Alexander Freydin, Ariel Novominsky, and Vladislav Comantany embarked on a mission to quantify the emotional journey preceding committing suicide. Their method enables mathematical analysis of this abstract concept, presenting a fresh perspective for comprehension and intervention.
Support From Various Organizations
Entities like ERAN, Data for Good Israel, Bishvil Ha’hayim (Path to Life), and Gila’s Way provided the needed help for these students in this endeavor. They offered information and inspiration, paving the way for candid dialogues about suicide.
The objective is that this collective endeavor will transcend the hackathon event and contribute to a broader understanding of identifying and addressing suicidal thoughts. The good news is that the solutions presented by these enterprising students have laid the groundwork for a brighter, more compassionate future.
As the world battles with the far-reaching effects of mental health issues, these technological breakthroughs could not be timelier. The Technion hackathon emerges as a beacon of hope in the relentless battle against suicide acts or attempts.
Through the brilliance of these students, AI, and the support of relevant organizations, there is newfound optimism in the collective capacity to identify and thwart suicidal thoughts. This event serves as a rallying call to communities worldwide to unite and innovate in the fight against suicide.