Sometimes the only people who understand what you’ve been through are others who have been through the same thing.
University of Georgia researcher Brian Bauer knows military veterans will go out of their way to help other vets, but they might not ask for assistance themselves. That’s why he developed the Continued Service Network, a platform that will let vets help one another.
To help in his efforts, Mission Daybreak recently awarded Bauer $250,000 for his project. Mission Daybreak, formerly called the Suicide Prevention Grand Challenge, awards not only money, but also data, research, mentorship, webinars and more.
“We started with the idea that if we’re only focusing on people who were going through a crisis and are currently at high risk, we’re going to lose the battle of suicide prevention,” said Bauer, assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology. “We also need to focus on assisting veterans and their family members build better lives to help prevent people from reaching high risk.”
Bauer’s platform has two parts: a website and a smartphone app.
The website takes users’ health records, treatments, personalities, values and demographics to make personalized recommendations. Combat vets who feel more comfortable around others who have fought can narrow their search to include only that group. Or perhaps that Marine might trust only other Marines, so they can search for groups they feel connected with.
The smartphone app lets users take what they learned on the website and incorporate it into their lives. “The app collects passive data such as the category of words you are typing. This can tell us if there is a sudden change in mood in real time,” Bauer told UGA Today. Algorithms then can help detect if a vet needs a mental health intervention and which might work best.
“This algorithm gets better and better the more people use it — it optimizes over time,” Bauer said.
According to Bauer’s former mentor and co-leader on the project, Alex Leow, “We want to build a technology platform, leveraging a new concept called computational democracy, to help veterans help one another and think better together.”
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