A team from Huddersfield has pioneered the use of artificial intelligence to predict those mental health patients most likely to take their own lives.
Prof Grigoris Antoniou and a team at the University of Huddersfield worked with South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SWYPFT) to examine how AI could help reduce the risk of suicide among mental health patients.
Now further work will be carried out into ways of deploying the new computer-based technique.
Although clinical decisions about suicide risk will always be based on clinical judgement, findings from this research should aid decision-making by identifying high risk patients based on learning from previous suicides.
Prof Antoniou, a globally-acknowledged expert in AI technologies, and his team analysed data from more than 100 suicide cases in order to compile a list of the key risk factors.
Now he is confident that the new AI-based methodology will allow for an automated suicide risk assessment at referral time with an accuracy significantly higher than the risk assessment scales currently in clinical use.
Prof Antoniou said human behaviour was very difficult to predict – while there was also a danger that professionals dealing with so many patients could became desensitised to the warning symptoms.
“We wanted to see whether we could come up with an automated risk assessment to inform and structure clinical judgements about suicide risk,” he said.
The concept emerged during talks with Prof Marios Adamou, a consultant psychiatrist at the South West Yorkshire NHS Trust and visiting professor at the School of Human and Health Sciences at the university.
The collaboration, co-funded by SWYPFT and the university, meant that Prof Antoniou and Prof Adamou worked together using anonymised medical records of 130 trust patients who had died by suicide between 2013 and 2016. The large amount of data included details of 1,000 referrals and 12,000 appointments.
Prof Adamou said: “This new innovation will be a valuable tool to help and support both service users and those providing care.
“Using new advances in technology like this will help us to identify high-risk service users easier and ensure they receive the right intervention at the right time.
“It is important that, as clinicians, we use every tool available to us to help those who are most at risk and I look forward to seeing this innovative new approach used in practice, not just in SWYPFT but across the country.”
Dr Michael Doyle, deputy director for nursing and quality for SWYPFT and lead for suicide prevention for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, said: “Health and social care providers from across the area have come together to pledge their commitment to suicide prevention.
“This research is promising and based on further research of this type, we hope to eventually develop a computer-based approach to clinical decision making that will help us prevent suicide.”