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Published August 21, 2013, 10:00 PM

New project hopes to prevent suicide by monitoring social media

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Social media sites like Facebook are often places people go to vent their frustrations. But how do you recognize when someone's posts cross the line from unhappy to suicidal? A new project aims to do just that with new technology.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Social media sites like Facebook are often places people go to vent their frustrations. But how do you recognize when someone's posts cross the line from unhappy to suicidal? A new project aims to do just that with new technology.

When a suicidal person posts about their troubles on Facebook, friends and family don't always recognize the cry for help. That's where the Durkheim Project comes in. The Boston-based program tracks key words and phrases used on social media sites in hopes of preventing suicide.

Sixteen year-old Cassidy Andel took to her Facebook page to vent about being constantly bullied in her hometown of Cooperstown. She made one final post before she took her life, leaving behind her loving family and friends.

People often use social media as an outlet for their frustrations, but when something worrisome is posted, often no one takes action - even though many have hundreds or even thousands of online "friends."

Stacie Loegering – First Link Crisis Services: "They're really concerned that somebody's going to be mad at them or maybe they believe that they are stepping over and it doesn't really mean somebody is having thoughts of suicide."

A new social media project hopes to help. The opt-in Durkheim Project uses predictive analysis technology to determine if someone is at risk for suicide. It combs through posts on Facebook and Twitter, searching for key words and phrases that might indicate someone needs help. The goal is to eventually send an alert for intervention.

Stacie Loegering: "No matter what, if somebody is saying they're suicidal or so depressed or they can't go on, it really needs to be up to the people around them that are helping to support.">

Right now, the project is testing and collecting data with active-duty military and veteran participants, a group that is at high-risk for suicide.

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