University of Sydney Working on NLP Social Media Tools for Suicide Prevention


Leon Spencer of ZDnet reports, "Social media psychotherapy could be the next big thing in the field of mental health management if the development of a new internet-based tool called CyberMate by the University of Sydney gets off the ground. According to the university, the team behind the CyberMate project will adapt online tracking techniques used by marketing analysts, along with digital social media and internet data to support interventions for young people affected by depression and other mental health issues. The researchers working on the project aim to design algorithms that will give the online tool the ability to screen a young person's social networking pages such as Facebook or Twitter for comments that may indicate potential self-harm. CyberMate would then act as a quasi-psychotherapist and engage with the young online user, suggesting options for help or support via email or SMS."


Spencer continues, "According to Calvo, the project will require the development of new technology that combines data mining and natural language processing. 'We are focused on combining human-computer interaction techniques and psychotherapy,' he said. 'Marketing organisations routinely track users as they navigate the web, and use personal and behavioural data to target advertising. This project aims to use this and other data to improve mental health interventions.' The new project is the latest in the Australian landscape using technology to gauge feelings, with the CSIRO leveraging Twitter comments earlier this month to determine how the 2014 Budget emotionally affected locals."


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Image: Courtesy Flickr/ kevin dooley