Deep neural networks detect suicide risk from textual facebook posts

Yaakov Ophir*, Refael Tikochinski, Christa S.C. Asterhan, Itay Sisso, Roi Reichart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Detection of suicide risk is a highly prioritized, yet complicated task. Five decades of research have produced predictions slightly better than chance (AUCs = 0.56–0.58). In this study, Artificial Neural Network (ANN) models were constructed to predict suicide risk from everyday language of social media users. The dataset included 83,292 postings authored by 1002 authenticated Facebook users, alongside valid psychosocial information about the users. Using Deep Contextualized Word Embeddings for text representation, two models were constructed: A Single Task Model (STM), to predict suicide risk from Facebook postings directly (Facebook texts → suicide) and a Multi-Task Model (MTM), which included hierarchical, multilayered sets of theory-driven risk factors (Facebook texts → personality traits → psychosocial risks → psychiatric disorders → suicide). Compared with the STM predictions (0.621 ≤ AUC ≤ 0.629), the MTM produced significantly improved prediction accuracy (0.697 ≤ AUC ≤ 0.746), with substantially larger effect sizes (0.729 ≤ d ≤ 0.936). Subsequent content analyses suggested that predictions did not rely on explicit suicide-related themes, but on a range of text features. The findings suggest that machine learning based analyses of everyday social media activity can improve suicide risk predictions and contribute to the development of practical detection tools.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number16685
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

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© 2020, The Author(s).


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