Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for Americans in 2015 and rates have been steadily climbing over the last 25 years. Rates are particularly high amongst U.S. military personnel. Suicide prevention efforts in the military are significantly hampered by the lack of: (1) assessment tools for measuring baseline risk and (2) methods to detect periods of particularly heightened risk. Two specific barriers to assessing suicide risk in military personnel that call for innovation are: (1) the geographic dispersion of military personnel from healthcare settings, particularly amongst components like the Reserves; and (2) professional and social disincentives to acknowledging psychological distress. The primary aim of this paper is to describe recent technological developments that could contribute to risk assessment tools that are not subject to the limitations mentioned above. More specifically, Behavioral Signal Processing can be used to assess behaviors during interaction and conversation that likely indicate increased risk for suicide, and computer-administered, cognitive performance tasks can be used to assess activation of the suicidal mode. These novel methods can be used remotely and do not require direct disclosure or endorsement of psychological distress, solving two challenges to suicide risk assessment in military and other sensitive settings. We present an introduction to these technologies, describe how they can specifically be applied to assessing behavioral and cognitive risk for suicide, and close with recommendations for future research.
Baucom, B. R. W., Georgiou, P., Bryan, C. J., Garland, E. L., Leifker, F., May, A., … Narayanan, S. S. (2017). The promise and the challenge of technology-facilitated methods for assessing behavioral and cognitive markers of risk for suicide among U.S. Army National Guard Personnel. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14040361