The Trevor Project enlists Google’s AI to help combat the LGBTQ suicide crisis

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LGBTQPIA + youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide.

In 1998, Project Trevor became the first “national lifeline of crisis intervention and suicide prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.” Since then, the foundation’s services have expanded beyond the telephone lifeline to include online chat and text advice – all of which are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

But that is not enough. According to a press release from Project Trevor:

In the United States alone, the organization estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide each year, and that at least one LGBTQ youth (13 to 24) attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

It takes a lot of volunteer counselors to make a difference. And, according to the most recent data available, suicide rates continue to rise. This is why the Trevor project has pledged to triple the number of trained advisers in its arsenal in 2021, and to increase it to ten times its current number.

To do this, the group’s AI division turned to the experts at Google.org to help them with funding and know-how. Their combined efforts have produced a new training system called “Crisis Contact Simulator” and a machine-learning-based assessment tool that detects high-risk users and guarantees them immediate help.

[Read: How to use AI to better serve your customers]

According to Amit Paley, CEO and Managing Director of The Trevor Project, the new tools will make the foundation’s planned expansion possible:

Technology and AI are essential tools in strengthening the special one-on-one bonds between our crisis counselors and LGBTQ youth.

We also know that nearly 70% of our digital crisis counselors volunteer nights and weekends, indicating a need for more training options outside of regular office hours. The addition of the Crisis Contact Simulator to our counselor training program provides significant flexibility for our interns, which creates a better experience for our volunteers and allows us to expand our crisis services to reach even more LGBTQ youth. in crisis.

The simulator uses natural language processing AI to, in essence, create a disturbed chatbot that advisers can talk to.

Nicknamed “Riley,” he mimics human behavior in the form of a fictional teenager from North Carolina who “feels anxious and depressed.” So counselors can practice having conversations while they are still in training – all counselors who work in helplines are fully trained. Rather than bringing in fellow counselors for role-playing tasks, AI can provide a consistent experience for all trainees.

Dan Fichter, head of AI and engineering at The Trevor Project, said the group was excited to bring the new system online:

Our Crisis Contact Simulator can engage in an extended dialogue with interns and use language the same way people do, including the language LGBTQ youth often use to describe their experiences and emotions. The simulator maintains a cohesive emotional and experiential narrative by talking about real-life feelings and situations.

Google.org, for its part, sent nearly 30 fellows to work alongside The Trevor Project and helped disseminate some $ 2.7 million in grants.

For more information on the Trevor Project, visit his site here.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health crisis, you can contact a suicide helpline by finding the appropriate listing for your location here.

To reach Project Trevor’s hotlines, see the image below:

Credit: The Trevor Project

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Published March 24, 2021 – 17:39 UTC


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