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Facebook Can Predict Suicide?



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    BANGOR, ME - JANUARY 30: Joanne Black, a member of the Maine Troop Greeters, welcomes U.S. Marines as they pass through the Bangor International Airport January 30, 2006 in Bangor, Maine. The group, which includes veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, has been on hand to offer greetings to military personnel on all flights to and from the Middle East region since May 2003. The group says it wants soldiers to know they are appreciated as the war continues in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are offered use a cell phone as well as cookies and other treats. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    Researchers are mining data on Facebook to find out if its updates can help predict suicide.

    The scientists, from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University, will be storing mobile data including user location, text messages and social network profiles in an onsite database. All information will be "safeguarded" and kept private, according to the Naked Security blog from Sophos. It's dubbed the Durkheim Project after sociologist Emile Durkheim, who wrote about suicide in the 19th century.

    The volunteer subjects are all military veterans, known for an already high suicide rate, Arts Technica reported. The project team is trying to predict suicidality, such as thoughts of suicide or behaviors, seems to indicate suicide with 65 percent of accuracy.

    The veterans will be using iPhone and Android apps on their devices that will analyze their content for any suicide correlations. However, the researchers aren't allowed to intervene if there is suicide or self-harm. Only the database and veterans will see the information as a way to build trust, researchers said. The database will also be looking at social media to look for concussions, post-traumatic stress and other stressors. 

    "Through a concerted and coordinated effort on the part of private industry, government, and concerned family and friends, we believe we can make a real difference in preventing suicide and saving lives," Facebook's vice president of public policy Joel Kaplan said in a statement.
    The data will help researchers find information that could be telling the world someone is suicidal even before he or she knows it. Unfortunately, this study won't report back to families because of privacy, but the information may prove helpful to families of future veterans dealing with depression or other mental health issues.