I read an article in the June 18, 2019 New York Times’s Science Times regarding a smartphone app that will gauge mental stress and “flag the user when an emotional crisis seemed imminent.” It “promised something that no drug or talk therapy can provide.” The venture is co-founded by a former director of NIMH and is in the experimental stage in Silicon Valley. It is to benefit those with suicidal urges and bouts of intense emotion by evaluating their screen activity.

As a professional and as someone who lived through attempted suicide, I don’t believe this hype. How are we going to program the app to do something that we ourselves don’t do so well apparently, “something no drug or talk therapy can provide”? When I attempted suicide 40 years ago, there were bigger things on my mind than typing on a keyboard. I was suffering from schizophrenia as well as paranoia. I couldn’t trust what I was seeing and hearing, and I certainly would not trust entering information into a smartphone when there is the possibility that people are listening, real or imagined. I doubt very much that an app would have changed the course of my life, and I am saying that a person who is suffering from paranoia as a major influence on his choice to commit suicide is not going to use the app.  

Be careful out there.