A groundbreaking project led by a Florida State University researcher makes an exponential advance in suicide prediction, potentially giving clinicians the ability to predict who will attempt suicide up to two years in advance with 80 percent accuracy.
FSU Psychology researcher Dr. Jessica Ribeiro feels an urgency to confront this relentless problem. Shadowing her research is the ever-present awareness that 120 Americans take their lives every day, nearly 45,000 a year. Ribeiro's paper, titled "Predicting Risk of Suicide Attempts over Time through Machine Learning," will be published by the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
The study offers a fascinating finding: machine learning — a future frontier for artificial intelligence — can predict with 80-90 percent accuracy whether someone will attempt suicide as far off as two years into the future. The algorithms become even more accurate as a person's suicide attempt gets closer. For example, the accuracy climbs to 92 percent one week before a suicide attempt when artificial intelligence focuses on general hospital patients.
"This study provides evidence that we can predict suicide attempts accurately," Ribeiro said. "We can predict them accurately over time, but we're best at predicting them closer to the event. We also know, based on this study, that risk factors — how they work and how important they are — also change over time."