Network-based prediction of the disclosure of ideation about self-harm and suicide in online counseling sessions
Xu, Z., Chan, C.S., Zhang, Q., Xu, Y., He, L., Cheung, F., ... Yip, P.S.F.
Background In psychological services, the transition to the disclosure of ideation about self-harm and suicide (ISS) is a critical point warranting attention. This study developed and tested a succinct descriptor to predict such transitions in an online synchronous text-based counseling service. Method We analyzed two years’ worth of counseling sessions (N = 49,770) from Open Up, a 24/7 service in Hong Kong. Sessions from Year 1 (N = 20,618) were used to construct a word affinity network (WAN), which depicts the semantic relationships between words. Sessions from Year 2 (N = 29,152), including 1168 with explicit ISS, were used to train and test the downstream ISS prediction model. We divided and classified these sessions into ISS blocks (ISSBs), blocks prior to ISSBs (PISSBs), and non-ISS blocks (NISSBs). To detect PISSB, we adopted complex network approaches to examine the distance among different types of blocks in WAN. Results Our analyses find that words within a block tend to form a module in WAN and that network-based distance between modules is a reliable indicator of PISSB. The proposed model yields a c-statistic of 0.79 in identifying PISSB. Conclusions This simple yet robust network-based model could accurately predict the transition point of suicidal ideation prior to its explicit disclosure. It can potentially improve the preparedness and efficiency of help-providers in text-based counseling services for mitigating self-harm and suicide.