Researchers believe word choices can predict suicide
Ambition is to create an app that will alert caregivers to the need for intervention
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.