HEALTH

BYU researchers create algorithm to predict adolescent suicidal thoughts, behavior

Nov 4, 2021, 1:29 PM
Suicide prevention card. A Utah agency is holding suicide prevention classes...
A drawing hangs along with other messages of hope and remembrance as part of Suicide Prevention Day at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

PROVO — New research from Brigham Young University led to the creation of an algorithm that can accurately predict suicidal thoughts and behavior among Utah junior high and high school students. 

The study of nearly 180,000 teenagers in Utah led researchers to identify the most likely predictors of suicidal thoughts and behavior. These include online harassment, bullying at school, and major arguments between family members. 

“Those things were really related to what’s going on digitally in adolescents’ lives and also what’s going on in the home,” says Carl Hansen, professor of public health at BYU. 

Read more: After daughter’s suicide attempt, mom wants to give kids tools to break free

Using machine learning, Hansen says they could predict troubling thoughts and actions with remarkable precision. 

“We were able to predict with 91% accuracy suicidal thought and behavior among this adolescent population,” he says. 

Read more: Reasons to Hope: Suicide is Utah’s most preventable tragedy

The study concluded females were at greater risk than men by about 7%. Analysis of the data also discovered adolescents without a father in the home were an astonishing 72.6% more likely to have suicidal ideation. 

Of course, Hansen points out, this is a matter of correlation and not causation.  A student experiencing interpersonal trouble on social media, in the halls at school, and in the living room with the family will not automatically resort to these thoughts and behaviors. The correlations are strong, but there may be other factors involved in why a teenager would have these feelings. 

However, this gives an excellent place to begin when considering ideas for prevention. This is especially true with a 91% percent accuracy threshold. 

Hansen says, “If you want to wrap your head around what you can do about it, these profiles are one good place to start.” 

As a father himself, the professor hopes this information gives communities, schools, and families more tools to create programs implement policy, and improve mental wellbeing among young, vulnerable Utahns. 

Read more: Utah launches three year, multi-million dollar suicide prevention campaign

Know the warning signs

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The following are warning signs of immediate risk. Call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing the following:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themself or talking of wanting to hurt or kill themself
  • Looking for ways to kill themself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary

Additional warning signs include: 

  • Increased substance use
  • No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling trapped — like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes

Courtesy of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition

Today’s Top Stories

Health

carbon monoxide poisoning...
Ali Litzinger

Carbon monoxide poisoning on the rise in winter months

SALT LAKE CITY — Winter is approaching and officials want people to know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Last year, nearly 200 Utahns were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.  The flame in a gas appliance should generally be blue, with some orange. If the flame is mostly yellow, it’s giving off excess carbon monoxide.  […]
6 days ago
BYU...
Mark Jackson

BYU wellness students return from Blue zone with healthy lifestyle tips

Some BYU students are learning how to live healthy and happier lives from a trip to Ikaria, Greece.
6 days ago
mental health rural...
Devin Oldroyd

Salt Lake Co. Council voting to fund temporary mental health receiving center

Salt Lake County Council will vote Tuesday morning on Funding for a temporary mental health receiving center at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
7 days ago
Driven to Assist Season of Service by Larry H Miller....
Elizabeth Weiler and Waverly Golden

Companies around Utah offer free Thanksgiving meals and more

The Miller Foundation, Crossroads Urban Center, and Ken Garff are all offering Thanksgiving meals and other services for Thanksgiving.
7 days ago
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...
Mark Jackson

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Memphis NAACP pair to help mothers

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Memphis NAACP are partnering to launch "MyBaby4Me" to help new and expecting mothers.
8 days ago
Shortages in daycares across the country and in Utah are keeping thousands of parents home, intead ...
Becky Bruce and Kira Hoffelmeyer

School and daycare facilities haven’t “bounced back” to normalcy

Along with the rest of the nation, a shortage of daycare workers and teachers in Utah means parents are staying home from work.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
BYU researchers create algorithm to predict adolescent suicidal thoughts, behavior