The Data Briefing: Help #HackSuicide This Weekend

Dec 9, 2015

A month ago, I wrote about the White House’s call for data scientists and app developers to come together to help combat suicide. On December 12, 2015, there will be five hackathons around the U.S. to #HackSuicide. All the hackathons are free and open to the public. Even if you are not a data scientist, app developer or mental health expert, you may want to attend one of the events to learn how data can be used to solve a vital public health issue.

Impact Hub DC will host the Washington, D.C., sprint that is dedicated to working with pre-existing resources on In my column, I described how there were a few datasets that could be used to develop suicide prevention apps, but more work was needed. Now, is your chance to suggest other datasets and mobile apps to add to to aid in suicide prevention.

In Boston, the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, in Jamaica Plains, will team up with Bayes Impact, in San Francisco, to discover federal and academic data to build software prototypes and data visualizations for suicide prevention among veterans. The idea is to identify the most vulnerable to suicide among the veteran population and help them receive the resources and guidance they need to stay well and safe.

“How can we create one database of referrals to organizations that refer people to mental health and emergency services?” is the focus of the Chicago hackathon. Sponsored by the Mayor’s Office, data scientists, developers and subject matter experts will come together to build a system for real-time referrals. In many cases, the first step in preventing suicide is helping at risk people get the help they need in time.

New York is the fifth city to hold a hackathon. The Crisis Text Line will host the event with the goal of creating an open API that all suicide prevention services can use for reporting suicide prevention efforts. By enabling the aggregation of suicide reporting on a national basis, better decisions about resource allocation and assigning services where they are most needed, can be done much more rapidly—and more important—effectively.

Please visit the Open Data and Innovations for Suicide Prevention page to register. Space is limited, so register early. If you are not able to attend the hackathons, there will be other opportunities to help #HackSuicide.Each week, The Data Briefing showcases the latest federal data news and trends. Dr. William Brantley is the Training Administrator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Global Intellectual Property Academy. You can find out more about his personal work in open data, analytics, and related topics at All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USPTO or GSA.