case study

Veterans Suicide Prevention

Developing AI system that meets the goals of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide

Suicide Prevention
12 December 2023
reading time: 8 minutes

Project

HadIt.com is for any veteran, service member, or family member who wants information or who wants to share information with others about the Veterans Affairs claims process. It’s both a website and a discussion board that supports it with links, articles, research resources, and more. As of 2022, HadIt.com has had veterans back for 25 years.

Company type

Time on market

Location

Industry

Context

Suicide rates have been historically high among Veterans, with the estimated risk being 57% higher than that of the general population. In order to investigate the suicidal tendencies among this group, we collected over 41,000 posts from VA Disability Claims Community Forums Hadit.com.

The forum’s premise is to allow veterans to ask and answer questions regarding veteran benefits and disability claims. Nevertheless, the thread topics often address very personal struggles such as mental health issues or seeking community support.

Solution

Individuals in distress, such as those on the aforementioned forums, are often unaware of available support services and may hesitate to seek help explicitly. Just as we proactively support various groups on Reddit, from teenagers to adults, Samurai can identify veterans in distress in real-time and provide a personalized intervention tailored to each person’s specific issue. These interventions aim to support individuals, educate them, and connect them with professional help or specific support programs.

Such a system would align with the goals of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, including Goal 5: developing, implementing, and monitoring effective programs to promote wellness and prevent Veteran suicide and related behaviors, and Goal 14: refining and expanding the use of predictive analytics for at-risk Veterans.

It could raise awareness about the availability of suicide prevention resources for veterans by directly educating those in distress about their options, as well as individuals seeking help for their loved ones. Additionally, by utilizing AI to identify subgroups at higher risk for suicidal behaviors (such as women and those with substance use challenges), interventions could be tailored specifically to these subgroups. Lastly, AI models include additional categories to detect past suicide attempts and a high risk of suicidal behavior, enabling timely interventions for those in immediate need.

By combining AI with expert knowledge in the field, we can establish and implement a layer of protection for forums, social media, and internal communication that can save lives and intervene before it becomes too late. Such a system would not only educate and connect veterans with help, but also encourage help-seeking behavior, address concerns about seeking help, and maximize the chances that those in need receive the necessary support.

How does it work in practice?

The project can be summarized in 5 simple steps: 

  1. A user publishes a suicidal post on a social media platform.
  2. The post is automatically detected by Samurai Labs AI and assigned to a dedicated dashboard.
  3. Using the dashboard trained specialists individually verify whether a person shows signs of suicidal behavior and decide if the intervention should be sent. Messages can also be personalized depending on the type of problem and the stage of the suicidal crisis.
  1. The system sends a supportive intervention to the user in crisis. The user receives self-help materials and is directed to a worldwide database of verified aid organizations. The website allows the individual to easily filter the information by their country of residence or the nature of their struggles.
  2. Additionally, the user can contact our team of specialists with questions, concerns, and feedback. All incoming messages from users are addressed by us to maximize the chances that the person receives support tailored to their particular situation.

Results

Out of the 41,000 posts, 1512 (3.7%) were detected by Samurai as those containing at least one of the categories below, representing either suicidal ideation or its risk factors:

Main Categories – representing different stages of Suicidal Ideation:

  1. Suicidal Thoughts – thoughts, dreams, fantasies on death and suicide. 
  2. Declaration – the decision to commit suicide. 
  3. Plan Method – plans for the attempt: the time, place or method; goodbye letters and the topics related to unfinished business.

Sub Categories – representing risk factors:

  1. Symptoms – different symptoms or diagnoses of mental disease.
  2. Self Harm – different forms of self harm: cutting, bruising, hitting oneself, starving etc.
  3. Past Attempts – any history of previous suicidal attempts.
  4. Traumatic Experiences – events that cause enormous amounts of stress and involve psychological, emotional or physical harm. 
  5. Cry For Help – reaching out to others for help or conversation.
  6. Farewell – goodbyes that refer to the intention of committing suicide.
  7. Being Burden – feelings of being a burden to others or the world. 

Through annotation and linguistic analysis of the 1512 posts, we verified that in 81 (1.2%) cases, their authors were currently struggling with Suicidal Thoughts. We would highly recommend they receive immediate support so that these thoughts do not intensify, resulting in tragedy:

Examples (posts detected as suicidal)

There are two reasons I am still alive, God and my wife. Suicidal thoughts are frequent and have been for along time.
Currently I am homeless, unable to see my children who are 2,000 miles away, and feel more suicidal than ever.
All I can think about is harming those who harmed me. I often think of harming myself.
She knows I’m actively suicidal in that I constantly think about it…have a plan, etc…but the RN and her both agree this is my “normal”. I’m sorry, since when is that “normal”?????? They just don’t get it!!!! I scream for help and they look the other way.
I am so stinking depressed with the pain i often think of suicide all the time but I’m afraid of going to shrink and telling them that because im afraid they may lock me up.

The remaining 1431 posts did not represent suicidal ideation, however many of them contained at least 1 of our subcategories that are known as high risk factors. In most cases the veterans described their struggles with traumatic experiences and chronic pain caused or aggravated by their military service. This leads to mental illness and symptoms, self harm, with some of the veterans mentioning their past suicide attempts. Those veterans were often misdiagnosed or badly treated, which often leads to social fears and distancing from family and friends. They are sharing their story with the aim of finding help, compassion or understanding.

Examples (non-suicidal posts with subordinate categories )

My military career has found it’s way back to me and is really affecting me in various ways. I’m having issues at home sometimes with my family and friends, flashbacks, hearing noises and almost all of the attacks I endured in Al Asad, Iraq from Feb to Late Oct 2004.
To this day now for at least the last past 4 months gradually, the flashbacks, hallucinations, lack of focus while at work sometimes, anxiety attacks, always on the alert as if something bad is going to happen at the next second, jumpy, up most hate going to the stores and dislike of crowds and people. I wake up in cold sweats like i have been swimming, severe migraines at least 4 a week, and very bad anger periods are just a few things I have to deal with.
I’ve been hospitalized in the past few months. Once for severe chest pain which was found to be “stress related” and then I was hospitalized twice for suicidal ideation with a plan. My depression has gotten worse and I am on a lot of medication for it.
My situation being that I have bipolar disorder, was misdiagnosed with depression by military mental health, given medication that triggered a manic episode which resulted in being discharged with a Pattern of Misconduct, a divorce, and several suicide attempts.
I am rated 70 percent from a very damaged service connected right arm and shoulder this handicap made me very depressed, anxious, unable to drive, to sleep, feeling guilty and so on. Went to see many va counsellors supporting than i am depressed, with delusions, bipolar disorder and so on…I did applied for an increment of disability what are my chances please?

We strongly believe that these individuals deserve immediate attention and support, which can be easily provided by implementing Samurai AI and the One Life Team. Our interventions can be carefully crafted to address those struggling with poor mental health due to their previous military service. We are ready to provide these individuals with immediate guidance and support, by redirecting those most vulnerable to helplines and organizations that are made specifically for assisting the Veterans in crisis. 

over 41,000 posts analyzed

We processed over 41 thousands post published searching for suicidal thoughts

over 1500 posts with suicidal thoughts detected

our analysis showed that over 1500 posts contained content related to suicidal thoughts

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