US Firm Develops AI-Enabled Tool to Prevent Military Veteran Suicides

This article could contain information that may be triggering for some individuals. If you are in urgent need of mental health support, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

An American tech firm has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled tool to support the mental health of military veterans and prevent suicides.

Called “HomeTeam,” the digital training tool employs cutting-edge technologies to simulate real conversations and offer support to struggling veterans.

Modules include talking about suicide, establishing safety, and connecting to available resources to equip vets with skills and confidence to combat mental health challenges.

According to manufacturer Reflex AI, trainees can test their skills by answering quizzes after completing a module.

“People know the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) has mental health services,” company founder Sam Dorison told Fox News. “What they don’t know is, ‘How can I be part of the solution for my friend that I care about in a unique peer-support context?’”

Blake at Your Service

HomeTeam features an AI-powered chatbot named Blake programmed to converse like a real American military veteran.

He simulates a 35-year-old Marine vet from Colorado Springs whose personal and career challenges have negatively affected his mental health.

Veterans using the tool are encouraged to converse with Blake using open-ended questions and let him share what is going on in his mind.

According to Dorison, the process helps build trust and start a conversation with a friend in need of help.

“Blake is engineered to sound authentic,” Relex AI co-founder John Callery said. “Blake sounds like a friend. Blake also swears like a friend. And this was based on a lot of feedback that we received from vets early on.”

Alarming Veteran Suicide Rates

In 2020, records showed that an average of 17 American veterans took their lives every day.

The risk of suicide among retired military service members in the country was also tallied to be 57 percent higher than the general population.

In terms of age groups, suicide rates have been high among young veterans and older veterans.

Between 2001 to 2020, the suicide rate for ages 18 to 34 increased by 95.3 percent, while a 58 percent rise was recorded for veterans aged 55 to 74.

Among the cited factors leading to increased suicide risk are anger, mood swings, anxiety, increased substance misuse, and risky behaviors.

Are you in urgent need of mental health support? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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