We’re doing something a little different this week. Instead of covering the week’s data news, we’re looking at how data science is helping with the very serious problem of suicide prevention. Huge thanks to Glen Coppersmith, CEO of Qntfy, for helping us dig into this topic.

The episode link is at the bottom of the post, but, due to the subject matter, we’d like to make sure we call out some important information.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or just needs to talk to someone who understands and wants to help , call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text the Crisis Text Line (text START to 741-741).

If you want to donate your social media data to power innovations in suicide prevention, please visit OurDataHelps.org. Your donation, regardless of your experience with mental health or suicide is appreciated. Sarah Shuster does a wonderful job of explaining how your donation helps here.

Glen Coppersmith (@GlenCoppersmith on Twitter) is founder and CEO of Qntfy (pronounced “Quantify”; @Qntfy), a small company dedicated to empowering mental health and scaling therapeutic impact. Qntfy is a team of data scientists, suicide prevention experts, software developers, and psychologists finding ways that technology can create nothing short of revolution in mental health. You can read more about the company on their website and learn about their research. Get in touch with them at: info@qntfy.com.

Suicide is a large and looming challenge, as highlighted by the recent CDC report. Data to support suicide research has been hard to come by, partially due to the societal stigma around suicide and mental health, and  the fact that the necessary labels were derived primarily from medical records, as well as a  lack of quantified real-time measurements of mental health. 

There are some interesting data sets in this space recently becoming available. If you’re at a university or non-profit, you can apply for access to the Crisis Text Line data. The Department of Veterans Affairs, has also recently packaged and released a few new datasets. The US Centers for Disease Control has a series of datasets that are relevant to suicide deaths in the US. 

Most of the statistics discussed during the podcast were taken from Nock et. al 2008. More people die from suicide than from homicide and war combined, the second leading cause of death for teenagers worldwide, and the leading cause of death for women ages 15-19 worldwide
While this is a large problem facing the world, there is reason for hope. The majority of people who attempt suicide do so only once, and go on to lead fulfilling lives. Dese’Rae Stage has chronicled stories and portraits of suicide attempt survivors in her award winning project Live Through This.

You may have noticed that when discussing suicide, we used the phrase “died by suicide” instead of the colloquial “commit suicide.” This is more in line with treating suicide like other medical conditions – one doesn’t “commit cancer” or “commit diabetes.” Such subtle changes are a part of a popular attempt to show respect for the people who are challenged with these conditions and reduce the prejudice associated with suicide (see the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis).

#SPSM is a tech-forward community within suicide prevention. They are distributed across the world, and communicate primarily through social media, and are always welcoming of new people. If you were interested in hearing about the latest research and strategies within suicide prevention, they would be my recommendation to you. I would go so far as to say they are the Partially Derivative of suicide prevention – they are very knowledgeable of the subject, but make it approachable, even to those outside the traditional suicide prevention training. They are active on Twitter under #SPSM, have a Facebook page, and host weekly Hangouts-on-air with guests at 9pm Central time. Check them out

Download Episode

If you haven’t had enough of Glen talking about suicide prevention, check out this talk about about using data and innovation around suicide and mental health.