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New Project to Watch Social Media For Signs of Mental Illness

By CBC News (Canada)

March 9, 2016

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University of Ottawa professor Diana Inkpen will receive $464,100 in funding from the Canadian government for a three-year project called "social Web mining and sentiment analysis for mental illness detection."

Inkpen's team will explore the use of social media data in screening for individuals at risk of mental health issues. She has partnered with local data science technology company Advanced Symbolics to collect massive amounts of data from public sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and medical forums, and her team will use text-mining algorithms to find patterns in the data and predict what they mean.

"Expressions of very negative emotions that are very strong, or appear a lot over longer periods of time, the algorithms can pick up," Inkpen says. "The algorithm learns from the data."

The programs also can monitor how an individual's online activity changes over time.

Inkpen says the goal is to create tools for flagging social media posts that can be used by doctors, psychologists, schools counselors, and research groups. If very angry or strange messages start appearing on social media, for example, the doctor of the patient writing them could receive an automatic alert.

The team plans to roll out the tools in 2018.

From CBC News (Canada)
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