Monitoring Tweets for Depression to Detect At-Risk Users

Title: Monitoring Tweets for Depression to Detect At-Risk Users
Authors: Jamil, Zunaira
Date: 2017
Abstract: According to the World Health Organization, mental health is an integral part of health and well-being. Mental illness can affect anyone, rich or poor, male or female. One such example of mental illness is depression. In Canada 5.3% of the population had presented a depressive episode in the past 12 months. Depression is difficult to diagnose, resulting in high under-diagnosis. Diagnosing depression is often based on self-reported experiences, behaviors reported by relatives, and a mental status examination. Currently, author- ities use surveys and questionnaires to identify individuals who may be at risk of depression. This process is time-consuming and costly. We propose an automated system that can identify at-risk users from their public social media activity. More specifically, we identify at-risk users from Twitter. To achieve this goal we trained a user-level classifier using Support Vector Machine (SVM) that can detect at-risk users with a recall of 0.8750 and a precision of 0.7778. We also trained a tweet-level classifier that predicts if a tweet indicates distress. This task was much more difficult due to the imbalanced data. In the dataset that we labeled, we came across 5% distress tweets and 95% non-distress tweets. To handle this class imbalance, we used undersampling methods. The resulting classifier uses SVM and performs with a recall of 0.8020 and a precision of 0.1237. Our system can be used by authorities to find a focused group of at-risk users. It is not a platform for labeling an individual as a patient with depres- sion, but only a platform for raising an alarm so that the relevant authorities could take necessary interventions to further analyze the predicted user to confirm his/her state of mental health. We respect the ethical boundaries relating to the use of social media data and therefore do not use any user identification information in our research.
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