Ellen Barry in The New York Times: “In March, Katelin Cruz left her latest psychiatric hospitalization with a familiar mix of feelings. She was, on the one hand, relieved to leave the ward, where aides took away her shoelaces and sometimes followed her into the shower to ensure that she would not harm herself.
But her life on the outside was as unsettled as ever, she said in an interview, with a stack of unpaid bills and no permanent home. It was easy to slide back into suicidal thoughts. For fragile patients, the weeks after discharge from a psychiatric facility are a notoriously difficult period, with a suicide rate around 15 times the national rate, according to one study.
This time, however, Ms. Cruz, 29, left the hospital as part of a vast research project which attempts to use advances in artificial intelligence to do something that has eluded psychiatrists for centuries: to predict who is likely to attempt suicide and when that person is likely to attempt it, and then, to intervene.
On her wrist, she wore a Fitbit programmed to track her sleep and physical activity. On her smartphone, an app was collecting data about her moods, her movement and her social interactions. Each device was providing a continuous stream of information to a team of researchers on the 12th floor of the William James Building, which houses Harvard’s psychology department.
In the field of mental health, few new areas generate as much excitement as machine learning, which uses computer algorithms to better predict human behavior. There is, at the same time, exploding interest in biosensors that can track a person’s mood in real time, factoring in music choices, social media posts, facial expression and vocal expression.
Matthew K. Nock, a Harvard psychologist who is one of the nation’s top suicide researchers, hopes to knit these technologies together into a kind of early-warning system that could be used when an at-risk patient is released from the hospital…(More)”.