Google grant to establish world-first suicide monitoring system

A breakthrough project, led by Monash University's Professor Dan Lubman, is the sole recipient in Australia of a US$850,000 (A$1.21 million) grant from Google to establish a world-first suicide monitoring system.

Google today (Tuesday 7 May 2019) announced that Turning Point, Australia’s leading addiction treatment and research centre and part of Eastern Health, is one of 20 organisations world-wide to share in US$25 million grants as part of the Google AI Impact Challenge.

This challenge called on non-profits, social enterprises and research institutions to submit their ideas on how to use AI to address societal challenges. More than 2600 organisations applied.

Turning Point and partners Monash University and the Eastern Health Foundation will use the funds to develop a national suicide monitoring system that has the potential to set global standards for suicide prevention efforts.

The project will involve using AI methodologies to streamline coding of national suicide-related ambulance data. The resulting data will play a central role in informing public health prevention, policy and intervention, as well as identifying emerging trends, hidden populations and geographical hotspots for targeted responses relating to suicide.

Dan Lubman, a Professor of Addiction Studies and Services (Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences) at Monash University and Director of Turning Point, will lead the project with Professor Wray Buntine (Faculty of Information Technology) and Dr Debbie Scott (Senior Research Fellow at Eastern Health).

“Suicide rates are, unfortunately, continuing to rise in Australia and across the world. This generous grant from Google gives us the opportunity to undertake a project that has huge potential to make a positive impact,” Dr Lubman said.

Eastern Health Foundation Director Jason Smith said: “Eastern Health Foundation is very excited to work in partnership with Turning Point and Monash University over the new three-year project. We look forward to celebrating this outcome with all involved, and contributing to improving the lives of people in our community.”

The President of Google.org, Jacquelline Fuller, said: “At Google, we have seen how AI can help us accomplish daily tasks and travels, and we believe in its potential to help address some of the world’s biggest humanitarian challenges.”

The announcement underpins the work and research undertaken at Monash University to support initiatives in AI for social good as well as the development of the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health.

The latter, made possible by Australia's largest single gift to mental health through the David Winston Turner Endowment Fund, will bring together clinicians, researchers and community groups at a dedicated institute on the Clayton Campus to develop solutions for mental health conditions.