New Research Collaboration on the Use Data Analytics for Suicide Prevention

VU Mathematics professors Rob van der Mei and Sandjai Bhulai have recently started a four-year research project on the use of data analytics to reduce suicide in the Netherlands. The project is a new collaboration between Foundation 113 Suicide Prevention, the Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI) and the Analytics & Optimization group within the mathematics department of the VU. In that context, two full-time PhD students were appointed.

10/26/2018 | 3:45 PM

Every day, five people in the Netherlands die because of suicide. People with suicidal thoughts can call on  online help, crisis help lines, online therapy and self-help from Foundation 113 Suicide Prevention 24x7 and anonymously. Foundation 113 aims at a society in which nobody dies lonely or desperate because of suicide. To achieve this goal, Foundation 113, CWI and VU have recently started a research collaboration.

The organizations have joined forces to optimize the quality of 113 Suicide Prevention services and to gain new scientific insights, that will enable 113 to reduce the number of suicides as booster of suicide prevention. VU and  CWI have specific knowledge of data analytics, modeling, stochastics and optimization, which can help to improve research in the field of the quality and effectiveness of online, anonymous assistance. VU and CWI have already used their expertise in this area before, for example, in reducing driving times for ambulances to emergencies in which every second counts.

The collaboration focuses both on improving the assistance of 113 suicide prevention and developing quantitative models that can provide insight into the way in which environmental factors, personal characteristics and care use play a role in suicide. For this purpose, microdata from the Central Bureau of Statistics will be used. The research concerning the online assistance is focused on the development of analytical models that will help 113 to optimize the quality of assistance. This includes, for example, providing insight into the most effective method of aid, so that the client is supported in the best way possible.

Research leader Rob van der Mei (VU and CWI): "We are very motivated to use our knowledge and expertise in the field of data analysis and forecasting models in order to help reduce the number of suicides and improve online assistance. This collaboration gives us the opportunity to have a substantial impact on a societal issue with our research, something we find very important at both VU and CWI."

113 manager and clinical psychologist Judith de Heus: "We are looking forward to working with CWI and VU very much, because their expert knowledge is very valuable in order to take our psychological expertise to a higher level. It is promising that mathematics and psychology will reinforce each other.”