Test to help predict suicide shares research prize
A COMPUTER-BASED test to help identify those at risk of suicide and a study of whether the prescription levy causes medical-card patients to stop taking important medicine shared the honours in a competition rewarding Irish research talent.
PhD students Ian Hussey of NUI Maynooth and Sarah-Jo Sinnott of University College Cork each won €2,500 for their entries to the Making an Impact competition, which they presented to second-level students and an expert panel.
The competition, sponsored by the Irish Independent and the Higher Education Authority (HEA), is designed to encourage students to communicate their research to a lay audience and five finalists presented from hundreds of entries.
Mr Hussey – part of the Department of Psychology, NUI Maynooth, team working with St Patrick's Hospital, Dublin – was impressed with how an “implicit attitudes” test can identify those feeling suicidal thoughts with 75pc accuracy.
Rather than questionnaires or interviews, the test measures reaction times to certain questions. A computer algorithm can then reveal unconscious biases that are used to predict actual behaviour.
Ms Sinnott, of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCC, wants to fill a knowledge gap about the impact of medical-card patients paying towards prescriptions.
Among her concerns is whether the €1.50 levy – and at what point – may cause card holders to stop taking medicine to the detriment of their own health and potentially costing the health service even more.
“This evidence will provide policymakers with a guideline on what type of co-payment is sufficient to reduce waste on the medical-card scheme, yet doesn't cause adverse harm to patients,” she said.
Katherine Donnelly (front left), Education Editor of the Irish Independent, and Tom Boland, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority, with finalists in the Making an Impact competition (from left) joint winner Ian Hussey, Mary Galvin, Sarah...