Re­searchers be­lieve word choices can pre­dict sui­cide

Am­bi­tion is to cre­ate an app that will alert care­givers to the need for in­ter­ven­tion

StarMetro Halifax - - DAILY LIFE - Su­san Clair­mont THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR Kather­ine Lalancette THE KIT

In the two months lead­ing up to the sui­cide of Bri­tish au­thor Vir­ginia Woolf, her let­ters and daily diary en­tries be­came in­creas­ingly for­lorn.

She used neg­a­tive words such as “noth­ing,” “last” and “never” more fre­quently as her bipo­lar dis­or­der took her down a dark­en­ing path.

That trail led her to wade into the River Ouse on March 28, 1941, her pock­ets filled with stones, a sui­cide note left for her hus­band.

“I feel cer­tain that I am go­ing mad again,” she wrote to Leonard. “I feel we can’t go through an­other of those ter­ri­ble times. And I shan’t re­cover this time.”

That has in­spired a team of re­searchers to try to pre­dict sui­cide from sub­tle changes in a per­son’s writ­ing. Their hope is to cre­ate an app that will an­a­lyze texts, emails and so­cial me­dia posts of at-risk pa­tients who have con­sented to par­tic­i­pate, so their cir­cle of care­givers can be alerted when in­ter­ven­tion is needed. Dr. Flavio Kapczin­ski, lead psy­chi­a­trist

The re­search is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween re­searchers from St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamil­ton, Mcmaster Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

“We want to be able to ex­tract the suicidality from the be­hav­iour,” says Dr. Flavio Kapczin­ski, the lead psy­chi­a­trist on the project who works with Mcmaster and St. Joseph’s. “We could no­tify the cir­cle of trust that a risk is emerg­ing.”

The re­search team’s study was pub­lished Wed­nes­day in PLOS One, a peer-re­viewed open ac­cess sci­en­tific jour­nal. Kapczin­ski says it is the first step in a project the team hopes will re­sult in a prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion for pa­tients at risk of sui­cide.

Woolf’s works in­clude A Room of One’s Own, Mrs. Dal­loway and To The Light­house. Her vast achieve­ments are even more re­mark­able con­sid­er­ing the strug­gles of her life. She was sex­u­ally abused as a child, was con­flicted over her bi­sex­u­al­ity and had bipo­lar dis­or­der (ev­i­denced by pe­ri­ods of ma­nia A re­search team is us­ing the writ­ings of Vir­ginia Woolf to develop an app that could be used in sui­cide in­ter­ven­tion.

and of de­pres­sion) that led to sev­eral sui­cide at­tempts.

Clouds cre­ated from words fre­quently used by Woolf in 46 doc­u­ments writ­ten in her fi­nal two months were com­pared with clouds cre­ated from ran­dom sam­plings from 54 of her let­ter and diary en­tries prior to that, says Dr. Diego Li­bren­za­gar­cia, a post-doc­toral fel­low­ship at the univer­sity in Brazil.

In the cloud com­piled from hap­pier times in Woolf’s life, fre­quently used words in­clude: love, to­mor­row, nice, hope and good.

In the cloud cre­ated from her fi­nal months, the words in­clude: lit­tle, miss, war, noth­ing, never, can’t and don’t. The re­searchers write that these “neg­a­tive words” may in­di­cate Woolf’s “thoughts of lack of ef­fi­cacy, self-crit­i­cism, worth­less­ness, nos­tal­gia, melan­choly and mainly hope­less­ness.”

The re­searchers cre­ated a “text clas­si­fi­ca­tion al­go­rithm” unique to Woolf’s vo­cab­u­lary and con­cluded it would have been able to pre­dict her sui­cide with 80.45 per cent ac­cu­racy. Let’s not tip­toe around it: Amber Heard is a badass.

When Hol­ly­wood big wigs said her bi­sex­u­al­ity would ruin the ac­tress’s ca­reer, she held her girl­friend’s hand in front of the pa­parazzi. When she re­ceived a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar set­tle­ment from ex-hus­band Johnny Depp af­ter he tried to de­stroy her cred­i­bil­ity fol­low­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of do­mes­tic abuse, she do­nated all the money to char­ity.

Sitting back in a black Saint Lau­rent suit and white tee, lobes decked out in mis­matched ear­rings, lob rum­pled just so, she goes on to pas­sion­ately dis­cuss films, fem­i­nism and more.

How does you feel about the cur­rent place of women in the film in­dus­try?

We make up more than half the pop­u­la­tion, over half the ticket-pur­chas­ing and moviego­ing pop­u­la­tions, yet we make up barely 30 per cent of the speak­ing or named roles in films. We’re so chron­i­cally un­der-rep­re­sented in this in­dus­try, and we’re not even tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the con­tent within those roles. We’re not tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the pres­sures put on (women) in re­gard to their sex­u­al­ity or their age.

What do you think needs to change?

In or­der to make it a fair, more di­verse place for, say, our daugh­ters, we need to pick up the cam­eras and tell our own sto­ries. We need to sup­port each other. We need to de­mand WWW.THES­TAR.COM

“WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO EX­TRACT THE SUICIDALITY FROM THE BE­HAV­IOUR. WE COULD NO­TIFY THE CIR­CLE OF TRUST THAT A RISK IS EMERG­ING.”

A rebel with a cause

Amber Heard says more women are needed be­hind the cam­era.

closer to 50 per cent in­clu­sion in crews. We need to de­mand equal pay and not be afraid to be called a bitch in do­ing so. We need to chal­lenge these things.

You’re part of a great fe­male en­sem­ble cast in your up­com­ing film Her Smell. What was it like shoot­ing that?

It was won­der­ful to walk on set and be sur­rounded by an al­most en­tirely fe­male crew. The movie isn’t about women’s rights or pick­et­ing or suf­frage, it’s about these women on tour, in a band, strug­gling with life and love and suc­cess and fame and ev­ery­thing that goes along with it.

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