Data for #MentalHealth

Last night at Girl Geek Dinners Ottawa (#GGDottawa), I had the privilege to hear strategic consultant Shelley McKay discuss a pilot project she is leading that will use social media, analytics and predictive models using keywords and phrases associated with known risk factors, to identify youth suicidal behaviours/ideations at the earliest possible point. Shelley launched this project after her daughter tried to take her own life and subsequently experienced first hand how fractured our health care system is when it comes to youth mental health. Image

Suicide, I learned, is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth; and is influenced by social media as well as social and environmental factors. If you have any social awareness you already know the names of teenagers Jamie Hubley and Rehtaeh Parsons. We should not know the names of these kids. They should still be alive and living their teenage lives. 

What Shelley is proposing with her pilot project is to utilize an existing government software that is used to monitor social media channels for our national safety against terrorist threats and focus it on at-risk youth. (Yes, that’s right! Big Brother IS watching.) The program, she explain can process 85,000 word a minute. A minute!! And it is able to place context to the key words being processed. Meaning the program knows the difference between someone saying they are going to “bomb a city’ and a comment such as “that show was the bomb”. In the context of monitoring our youth, the program can analyze their mood, track mood trends and language patterns so parents, schools and hospital can take a proactive care approach rather than a reactive one. This is the first goal of the project. The second, Shelley explains, is to reduce the pressure on our region’s emergency rooms by proactively identifying youth in crisis and directing them to appropriate treatment. 

Now as a marketer, you might be asking how it is possible to monitor people with our current privacy laws. That is one of the hurdles that Shelley is currently taking on. Partnered with SAS, a leading company is big data, Shelley and her team are working with our government, schools, hospitals, such as The Royal, and health officials to make this project concept a reality.

Big Data for the advancement of Mental Health. If you’d like to learn more about Shelley’s project, give her a tweet: @McKayShelley. 




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