About the solution
After serving his country in Afghanistan and Antarctica, Jason Loughran relied on the support of his family and friends to transition back to normal life. Now he is a veteran and a mentor volunteer at the College of Staten Islands. However, not all veterans recover, many struggle all their life and are at high risk for suicide. Knowing Jason’s story and the situation in the USA, his students, Anthony, Mark, Egor, and Vicent, at the College of Staten Islands, focused on the veterans’ struggle for a contest on IMB technology, the CUNY-IBM Watson Social Impact Challenge.
They developed an algorithm that powers the app called Guardian. Through the Watson Tone Analyser, the app analyses veterans’ activity on social media to determine risk factors for suicidal behaviours. "We wanted to create an artificial intelligence to help identify who is at risk," student Anthony said.
If the veteran is deemed at risk, the app sends alerts to family or friends along with the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale, questions that anyone can use to prevent suicide, and mental health resources. "It cannot physically go to a person and you know, pull him from a bridge or something like that. But its goal is to pass information to someone who can," student Mark said.
The team won the contest and pitched the idea to the Department of Veteran’s Services. The goal is to partner with veteran groups to bring their idea to life. “To our surprise, there were a lot of resources available for the people who are identified as being at risk, but the information was really scarce for those who are unaware of their potential risk. After working closely with the Department of Veteran Services, we formulated our idea and began integrating cutting edge technology with several existing programs. Our goal is to efficiently identify individuals at risk and take appropriate actions in order to assist them in their battle within," Egor said.
"This technology gives new meaning to what we know as 'the buddy system.' Guardian will be able to equip everyone with the tools to help friends and family members who served their country get through hard times," Jason Loughran said.
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