With computers getting better and better at language, researchers are taking computational linguistics into a new area: suicide prevention.

How can looking at language data help to save lives?

Linguist Daniel Midgley finds out on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Suicide is a sensitive topic, but I felt quite inspired by the work people are doing in Natural Language Processing (NLP). By combing through blogs and analysing notes for cues to emotion, researchers are trying to make a difference and save lives.

All a part of this week’s podcast. Check it out — and if you’re in a bad place right now (or know someone who is), call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Or you can search ‘suicide prevention’ for relevant advice near you.


Show notes

Suicide affects all age groups, but young people are especially vulnerable.
http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/3309.0~2010~Chapter~Suicide+in+Australia

Summer Beretsky takes Apple’s Siri to task as a suicide prevention resource
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/03/16/siri-i-couldnt-find-any-suicide-prevention-centers/
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/10/10/apples-siri-still-flawed-when-talking-about-suicide/

but it has gotten a lot better.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/siri-suicide_n_3465946.html?ref=topbar

Hunting Suicide Notes in Web 2.0, by Yen-Pei Huang and team.
http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1338269

John Pestian (et al)’s compared real notes to fabricated ones.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3107011/

His NPR interview:
http://www.npr.org/2013/05/15/184232472/analyzing-the-language-of-suicide-notes-to-help-save-lives

A further study by Songhwan Sohn et al.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3409488/

A thesis by Jess Shapero
http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/1525/

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. In Australia, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14
http://www.lifeline.org.au/

or search for ‘suicide prevention’ in your area.

Helpguide.org lists some common misconceptions about suicide
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/suicide_prevention.htm

And suicideprevention.com.au has tips as well.
http://www.suicideprevention.com.au/


Show tunes

‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ by Gorillaz
from the album Gorillaz

‘Don’t Give Up’ by The Whitest Boy Alive
from the album Dreams

Did I miss a trick? I probably could have played ‘Don’t Give Up’, the brand new song from Washed Out. That would have been perfect. Well, here it is as a bonus video.