UC3M takes part in a project selected by CaixaResearch for Health Research 2023

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It is focused on a connected health strategy to prevent suicide

The Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) is taking part in a research project on the use of technological tools for suicide prevention, coordinated by the Jiménez Díaz Foundation (FJD, in its Spanish acronym), which was selected in the latest CaixaResearch call for Health Research. Promoted by the "la Caixa" Foundation, this initiative aims to promote biomedical research of excellence with great social impact in basic, clinical and translational research.

The project, called "A connected health strategy to prevent suicide in people at risk," implements an artificial intelligence method developed by UC3M researchers in collaboration with the FJD that automatically determines a person’s suicidal risk based on data collected from their mobile phone. According to the experts involved in the project, this determination is combined with a set of interventions based on scientific evidence that could prevent many of these deaths. In addition to passively collected data, mobile phones allow people at risk of suicide to be asked how they are feeling at any given moment and what environment they are in, they add.

"This project aims to determine the effectiveness of combining these sources of information to prevent suicide attempts and to accurately determine the profile of people who repeat a suicide attempt, which will allow us to design more effective prevention strategies," the researchers explain. A study will be carried out with people who have been treated for attempted suicide in one of the seven hospitals participating in the project, distributed among four autonomous communities.

"The combination of artificial intelligence and mobile technologies is key in this project by providing a behavioural marker that is related to the risk of attempting suicide in the short term," explains one of the researchers involved in this project, Antonio Artés, a professor in UC3M’s Signal Theory and Communications Department.

The work is based on the fact that, according to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), each year, around 800,000 people around the world take their own lives, and many more attempt to do so. Deaths by suicide are a serious public health problem and represent the second leading cause of death in people between 15 and 29 years of age. A significant percentage of people who attempt suicide without success attempt it again during the following year.

The project is led by Dr Enrique Baca-García, head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Jiménez Díaz Foundation University Hospital, in consortium with Dr Antonio Artés, from UC3M; Dr Miguel Ruiz Veguilla, from the Virgen del Rocío University Hospital-Institute of Biomedicine of Seville (IBIS, in its Spanish acronym)-Cibersam; Dr Pilar Alejandra Saiz Martínez, from the University of Oviedo; and Dr Víctor Pérez Sola, from the Hospital del Mar.

CaixaResearch for Health Research is a competitive call for proposals, to which 493 were submitted this year, with 33 initiatives selected. The "la Caixa" Foundation recently held the award ceremony for these grants for research projects in biomedicine and health to be carried out in research centres, hospitals and universities in Spain and Portugal.