Google taps local addiction service to build AI suicide surveillance system

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Google taps local addiction service to build AI suicide surveillance system

Turning Point wins $1.2 million grant.

Google is handing out artificial intelligence grants for social good once again, with the sole Australian recipient being awarded $1.2 million to develop a world-first suicide surveillance system.

Turning Point, a national mental health and addiction research, education and treatment service, was one of 20 organisations among a global field of 2600 applicants to share in the $25 million AI Impact Challenge.

The project involves using AI methodologies “to streamline coding of national ambulance suicide-related attendance data,” Turning Point said.

Resulting data would then play a critical role in informing public health prevention, policy and intervention, as well as identifying emerging trends, hidden populations and geographical hotspots for targeted responses relating to suicide.

Turning Point director and professor of Addiction Studies and Services at Monash University, Dan Lubman, leads the project, which could one day be expanded to an international audience.

Lubman and his colleagues, Dr Debbie Scott and professor Wray Buntine, will head to San Francisco to further develop the platform over five days, meeting the other grantees and working with Google’s project managers. AI gurus and startup specialists from the company’s Launchpad Accelerator program over six months.

Each organisation will pair up with one of Google’s experts for regular coaching sessions, with access to the tech giant’s resources.

Lubman said the system could be used to better understand why suicide rates continue to rise in Australia and around the world, despite increased funding (at least in Australia) to promote mental health awareness and services.

“This grant from Google gives us the opportunity to undertake a project that has huge potential to make a positive impact, and we are incredibly grateful for their generous commitment to supporting this work,” he added.

Eastern Health Foundation director Jason Smith said, “Eastern Health Foundation is very excited to work in partnership with Turning Point and Monash University on this three-year project and is delighted to assist in the coordination of various aspects of this ground-breaking project.”

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