The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Veteran Affairs are hosting a suicide prevention hackathon and data jam on Dec. 12.

Technology nonprofits and other local agencies will collaborate in hosting the free day-long events, which will take place in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.  Event planners also encourage those who cannot attend to hold their own hackathons.

The White House is calling for data scientists, engineers, designers, domain experts, clinicians, researchers, tool developers, advocates, policy makers, and other stakeholders interested in preventing suicide to get involved.

In the United States, one in five adults experience a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or post-traumatic stress at some time during their life, according to the White House. But more than 41,000 Americans take their own lives each year due to undiagnosed, undertreated, or untreated mental health challenges that increases their risk for suicide.

“Deciphering why loved ones commit suicide is a complex topic without easy answers, yet data and data analysis tools may help shed new light on patterns and subtleties never before detected,” DJ Patil and Jo Handelsman, from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in a recent blog.

“This event will take people out of their professional silos, bring fresh eyes and new perspectives to the problem, and forge new partnerships to develop innovative approaches to suicide prevention,” Patil and Handelsman said.

The events, which require registration, will take place as follows:

•    In Boston, the Department of Veteran Affairs Healthcare System in Jamaica Plain will host a data sprint focused on identifying veterans at risk for suicides using Federal and academic open data sets.

•    In Chicago, the Office of the Mayor of the City of Chicago will host a hackathon focused on answering the question: How can we create one database of referrals for organizations that refer people to mental health and emergency services?

•    In New York, Crisis Text Line will host a hackathon and data sprint to develop an open API for mandatory reporting in all 50 states, which will be freely available for all suicide prevention services to use.

•    In San Francisco, Bayes Impact will host a hackathon to build software prototypes and data visualizations using open data to address suicide among veterans.

•    In Washington, D.C., Impact Hub DC will host a tech sprint to augment—the home of the government’s open data where the public can find free data, tools, and resources—by adding new and enhancing datasets related to suicide in order to stimulate new research, encourage innovative data visualizations, and facilitate the development of Web and mobile applications.
Follow the event on Twitter via #MentalHealthHackathon. Registration and more information is available here.

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Diana Manos