High schooler designs app to prevent suicide through early detection

He says his app predicted suicide risk with 98 percent accuracy.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The app predicts those at riks for suicide..jpg
The app predicts those at risk for suicide.


A senior at The Woodlands College Park High School, in a suburb outside Houston, U.S. has designed an app that uses AI to scan text for signs of suicide risk. Siddhu Pachipala believes it could be used to replace outdated methods of diagnosis.

This is according to a report by NPR published on Saturday.

"Our writing patterns can reflect what we're thinking, but it hasn't really been extended to this extent," he told the news outlet.

Pachipala’s app called SuiSensor is based on sound scientific principles. He used sample data from a medical study, based on journal entries by adults,to provide the foundation for his algorithm.

Now, he says his app predicted suicide risk with 98 percent accuracy and even generated a contact list of local clinicians.

Experts are already seeing promise in the development.

“Machine learning is helping us get better. As we get more and more data, we're able to improve the system," said Matt Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, who studies self-harm in young people. "But chat bots aren't going to be the silver bullet."

In addition, Colorado-based psychologist Nathaan Demers, who oversees mental health websites and apps, argued that there is a palace for personalized tools like Pachipala's to help fill a void where needed most.

"When you walk into CVS, there's that blood pressure cuff," Demers said. "And maybe that's the first time that someone realizes, 'Oh, I have high blood pressure. I had no idea.'”

Entering a competition

To get more exposure the high schooler entered his invention into the Regeneron Science Talent Search, an 81-year-old national science and math competition.

The judges noted that, "His work suggests that the semantics in an individual's writing could be correlated with their psychological health and risk of suicide."

As a result, he did rather well, placing ninth overall at the competition and winning a $50,000 prize.

Pachipala now says its time to revolutionize how we approach suicide prevention.

"I think we don't do that enough: trying to address [suicide intervention] from an innovation perspective," he told NPR. "I think that we've stuck to the status quo for a long time."

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