Can Artificial Intelligence prevent suicide?




If you have been a funeral director for any length of time the odds are that you have served a family of a suicide death at some point.  I served several over my years as a funeral director and those times were very difficult and stressful for me.  And, I had somewhat an empathetic heart because I lost a 31-year old brother to suicide back in 1993.


I never enjoyed the process of working with suicide families but I volunteered at our funeral home quite often for the duty because I had this feeling, “Someone has to help that family and no one will do it better than I can”.  You might call that arrogance, but I felt my history of a family suicide put me in some familiarity with those I would be working with and in their dispair and grief they might appreciate being with someone who had already walked the walk they were about to begin.


I would wish no family or no funeral director would ever have to deal with suicide again.  However, the statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) tell us that is unlikely.  As a matter of fact, suicide as a percentage of deaths per 100,000 population, continues to rise in America.  It is the 11th highest cause of death and in 2021 we lost over 48,000 fellow Americans to suicide deaths.


According to the linked article, Minnesota had 835 suicide deaths last year as compared to 480 in 2001.


It’s with that backdrop that I read this recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune which notes that University of Minnesota researchers are trying to identify, via potential Artificial Intelligence (AI), brain waves that might be a predictor to those with suicidal thoughts.  Dr. Alik Widge, a University of Minnesota psychiatrist who is leading the study entitled “Fast, Reliable Electrical Unconscious Detection” or FREUD for short, believes we need to improve detection as he states, “Our rate of predicting who is going to attempt suicide in the next three months is terrible.  We’re a little better than chance, but we’re not nearly as good as we need to be.”


For the study, that is funded by the Department of Defense, Dr. Widge mentions “the goal is to create a “lying-to-yourself detector” that identifies brain signals that are unique and common to people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or psychosis”.  


The goal is to come up with an “MRI-like detection system” for mental health using an image scan of the brain.  According to the article “Software company Intheon is part of the group along with, which is exploring other biometric indicators of mental illness such as voice patterns, eye movement and facial expression”.


Dr. Widge concludes the article by saying, “one long-term goal is to get beyond detection and use the biometric information to come up with more effective therapies for preventing suicide”.


Related Facts from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

  • The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2021 was 14.04 per 100,000 population
  • On average there are 132 suicides per day in the United States
  • In 2021 men died by suicide 3.9 times more than women


More news from the world of Death Care:


Enter your e-mail below to join the 3,295 others who receive Funeral Director Daily articles daily:


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted in ,

Funeral Director Daily

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to Funeral Director Daily
Enter your email address to join 3,366 readers who subscribe to all Funeral Director articles.

advertise here banner