How New Technologies Are Changing the Way We Study and Treat Suicidal Behaviors
Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.
Matthew Nock, PhD, Harvard University, presents as part of the 2022 Suicide-Focused Assessment and Treatment: An Update for Professionals course.
Innovations in Technology
Suicide is a complex problem—one that humans have been trying to understand for thousands of years.
As the mortality rate for other health issues has dropped, we haven’t seen the same progress in the area of suicide. In this talk, Nock explains why this may be the case, and discusses new ways to determine suicide risk.
Watch now to learn more about:
- Why suicide mortality rates have remained stagnant
- How research may not adequately address suicide risk
- How technology can lead to improvements in assessing and preventing suicide
Nock states that research on suicide has repeatedly looked at the same risk factors, such as demographics, life events, and internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Studies have been largely conducted with self-report surveys and interviews.
“If we’re using the same methods, we shouldn’t be surprised to be seeing the same results,” Nock says. “We need new technologies.”
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Nock discusses the need for methods that better combine known risk factors for suicide. He points out that the strongest risk factors for suicide have about the same odds ratio. While there isn’t one factor that most strongly predicts suicide, 90% of research over the past 50 years has examined one risk factor at a time.
“This is a problem for our clinical predictions,” he states. “The human brain isn’t designed to assess dozens of risk factors, weigh them, combine those weights, and make a predictive probability of a suicide event. Yet this is what we’re asking clinicians to do in emergency, inpatient, and outpatient settings.”
This is where technology can come in, according to Nock. He describes a study in which researchers used machine learning applied to administrative medical data to create risk scores for patients in the year after psychiatric hospitalization.