HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Death by suicide is all too common among former military personnel.
Veterans are at a 57% higher risk of suicide than those who haven’t served, according to Stop Soldier Suicide.
But organizations that support veterans in Virginia are now using new artificial intelligence technology to identify those at risk and intervene before it’s too late.
Clearforce is a people-risk analytics firm working to help organizations that serve veterans become aware of potential stressors that could help identify those they need to get to sooner.
These could be things like financial problems, substance abuse, running into trouble with law enforcement or not having a job.
“We’re coming into that space saying, hey, we can use our technology to change the way we think about it because today most of the burden is on the veteran to do two key things – one, self assess, I’m struggling and then two, go get help,” said retired Col. Michel Hudson.
Hudson is the vice president for insider risk and suicide prevention for Clearforce.
Hudson was a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps and also ran a sexual assault prevention program while he was in uniform.
He said the current model places too much pressure on the veteran to seek help, instead of help coming to them.
“If you go talk to the VA or Veteran Services Organizations they would agree, the question is – how do we move upstream and do that in a way that we can laser in on and better deploy resources,” Hudson said, “and that’s the value we’re bringing to this conversation today.”
Clearforce is a technology company based outside of Washington D.C. that uses artificial intelligence to help organizations and the federal government comb through data faster.
They also help companies better understand their work place dynamics and look for risks – like hazing, harassment or potential safety hazards.
Now in addition to that – they’re using this AI technology to identify factors such as financial struggles, history of substance abuse and employment records to move resources at a time when veterans need it most.
“If you can’t make payments on your bills, financial stress builds, homelessness can follow and then what you find on the other side of that can be substance abuse, alcohol or drugs,” Hudson said.
This information helps organizations who serve veterans better focus on outreach, which could be something as simple as a phone call.
“So if you had to come up and say what’s the 200 that I should be talking to today, that’s where we would come in,” Hudson said.
Hudson said the data allows them to laser focus in real time on the evidence-based factors, so they can better outreach as those pressure stressors build.
“We want to change that and laser focus in on the veteran,” Hudson said, “move resources at a time when the veteran can most benefit from it.”
Clearforce assures privacy is protected, and they also use technology to remove bias or favoritism from the data. They also say they take steps to make sure data is not misused as well.
Hudson said while this technology will help reach more veterans, it’s also important for veterans to seek help if they need it.
“If you find yourself in that place where your world seems to be getting smaller,” Hudson said, “I highly encourage you to stay connected. That’s the first step, take one and then you’ll take another. Before you know it, you’re moving from a dark place to a light place, so stay in the fight.”
Help is available 24 hours a day, you can call 988 for assistance.