The suicide rate for individuals between 10 and 24 years old has increased 56% between 2007 and 2017, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In comparison to the general population, more than half of people experiencing homelessness have had thoughts of suicide or have attempted suicide.
Phebe Vayanos, assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering has created a new technique that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help mitigate the risk of suicide.
The TechXplore website cited Vayanos saying: "In this research, we wanted to find ways to mitigate suicidal ideation and death among youth. Our idea was to leverage real-life social network information to build a support network of strategically positioned individuals that can 'watch-out' for their friends and refer them to help as needed."
Vayanos and her team design an algorithm capable of identifying who in a given real-life social group would be the best persons to be trained as "gatekeepers" capable of identifying warning signs of suicide and how to respond.
According to the German news agency, this algorithm can help us find a subset of people in a social network to accomplish the gatekeeper role. This work is particularly important for vulnerable populations, particularly for youth who are experiencing homelessness.
"We want to train the biggest number of people to monitor those at risk of suicide, taking into account the limited resources and problems that these people may face in real life," said Vayanos.
"Our algorithm can improve the efficiency of suicide prevention trainings for this particularly vulnerable population," she added.
This study can also help inform policymakers who are making decisions regarding funding on suicide prevention initiatives; for example, by sharing with them the minimum number of people who need to receive the gatekeeper training. "Our aim is to protect as many youth as possible," said Vayanos.