#mental health#technology#mental health

New algorithm created to support those with suicidal thoughts.

The numbers of people who are taking their own lives across the world continues to rise, and has become a leading cause of death in adults in the US. Fr...

Catherine Sturman
|Nov 1|magazine5 min read

The numbers of people who are taking their own lives across the world continues to rise, and has become a leading cause of death in adults in the US. From lack of access to mental health services, amidst a large number of factors, scientists have now worked to develop a new programme which will support the diagnosis and identification of those who are suffering from suicidal thoughts.

The new algorithm will analyse people’s brain scans, and will support the growth and development of professional services surrounding mental health conditions.

A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh incorporated over 30 volunteers, where 17 had suicidal thoughts whilst the others did not. Whilst undergoing a fMRI, they were each asked to read a number of words with both positive and negative connotations, and asked to think about the meaning surrounding these words.

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By analysing patients cerebral blood flows and the subsequent data activity, an algorithm was able to be constructed, and has led the system to gain the ability to ascertain those with suicidal thoughts with over 90% accuracy, alongside those who have attempted suicide in previous years at over 90%.

However, despite these advantages, one challenge which remains for patients are rising costs within the healthcare space. fMRI scans cost thousands to undertake, and are therefore not recommended by medical professionals unless absolutely necessary. Many hospitals will consequently not house such technology, and insurance plans rarely cover this type of medical procedure.

Nonetheless, the study could open doors to transforming our understanding of mental health and provide better support to those in need.