Software can sense `depression` in blogs

Researchers have developed a software programme that can detect depression in blogs and online texts.

London: Researchers have developed a software programme that can detect depression in blogs and online texts. The software is capable of identifying language that can indicate a writer`s psychological state, which could serve as a screening tool.

Developed by a team headed by Yair Neuman, associate professor of education at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev, Israel, the software was used to scan more than 300,000 english language blogs posted on mental health websites.
The programme identified what it perceived to be the 100 "most depressed" and 100 "least depressed" bloggers.

A panel of four clinical psychologists reviewed the samples and concluded that there was a 78 percent correlation between the computer`s and the panel`s findings.

"The software programme was designed to find depressive content hidden in language that did not mention the obvious terms like depression or suicide," Neuman said.

"A psychologist knows how to spot various emotional states through intuition. Here, we have a programme that does this methodically through the innovative use of `web intelligence`."

For example, the programme spots words that express various emotions, like colours that the writer employs to metaphorically describe certain situations.

Words like "black" combined with other terms that describe symptoms of depression, such as sleep deprivation or loneliness, will be recognized by the software as "depressive" texts.
Originally conducted for academic purposes, the findings could potentially be used to screen for would-be suicides.

The software provides a screening process that raises an individual`s awareness of his or her condition, enables mental health workers to identify individuals in need of treatment and can recommend they seek professional help.

"Because, no one can actually replace excellent human judgement," Neuman added.

In the US, there is a big problem of undiagnosed people suffering from depression. The usual screening process is an online questionnaire, which is a self-selective process.

If a person is completing a survey, he already suspects a problem. With this software, it is possible to analyse proactively. If the blogger agrees, he will know whether or not he needs to seek professional counselling, said a university release.

Neuman will be presenting his work at the 2010 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agency Technology in Toronto, Canada, from Aug 31 to Sep 3, later this year.

Amritsar: The city of Golden Temple is all geared up to welcome the Queen`s Baton Relay`s entry to India from Pakistan through Wagah-Attari border tomorrow before it embarks on a 100-day national tour to culminate in New Delhi for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The QBR, which was launched by Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace in London on October 29 last year in the presence of Indian President Pratibha Patil, is nearing the end of its 190,000-kilometer journey covering 71 nations and territories across the world.

Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the CWG Organising Committee, will receive the baton from Pakistan Olympic Association President Lt Gen Syed Arif Hassan at the international border, where the Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell will also be present.

"Fennell will be arriving here specially to attend the programme, which will see the beginning of 20,000-kilometer journey touching all the states and union territories of the country," Kalmadi said at a press conference.
Four-times world boxing champion Mary Kom and Olympic bronze medallist pugilist Vijender Singh will be among the star sportspersons to attend the hand-over ceremony of the QBR, which will culminate at New Delhi`s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on October 3, the opening day of the quadrennial multi-discipline sporting extravaganza.

After receiving the baton at the international border, Kalmadi will hand it over to the athletes present there who will then pass it on to Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, while his Delhi counterpart Sheila Dikshit will also attend the function.

Former India cricketer and Amritsar MP Navjyot Singh Sindhu and the city Mayor will take it through various places in the city, including the famous Golden Temple and Durgiana Temple.

Performance by late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan`s son Rahat Ali and the Indian Sufi singers, the Wadali brothers will then enthrall the audience present there.
After Amritsar, the baton will pass through other cities of Punjab, including Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Pathankot before entering Jammu and Kashmir by the end of this month.

"I am happy that the baton is arriving first in Punjab which has produced a number of international sportspersons in various disciplines. The QBR has generated good response in all the countries it has passed through so far and I expect all the Indians will be the part of this great journey," Kalmadi said.


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