Inspiration

Depression affects over 300 million people worldwide, regardless of culture, age, gender, religion, race or economic status. And every day, approximately 123 Americans die by suicide while approximately 1.4 million people attempt suicide each year (CDC). There is one death by suicide in the US every 12 minutes (CDC).

As social media platforms have become more widespread, the ways of interacting have shifted from in person and phone conversations to purely communicating from behind the keys of a phone or laptop.

We wanted to build on Facebook's mission statement to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” by providing an easy and secure way for people to seek help in their everyday lives, whether they had a bad day, got laid off from work, or are considering self-harm. In addition to this, we want to provide a convenient way for people to volunteer their time to help others.

What it does

Our chatbot provides a seamless way to connect people around the world who are struggling with those who want to help.

Features:

  • Allows visitors to the Facebook page to easily sign up as a volunteer
  • Connects volunteers and clients as soon as both parties are available
  • Anonymously routes messages between volunteers with clients who are seeking help
  • Allows clients and volunteers to find new conversations at any time
  • Gives clients additional information for finding help when requested
  • Urges clients to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline if there is an indication that the person is at a high risk of being harmful to them or others

How we built it

Our suicide-prevention-bot is an Express NodeJS web server that integrates with Facebook Messenger Platform.

The web server enqueues volunteers and clients and polls on a fixed interval to connect them. When a client and volunteer are connected, a conversation session is instantiated and monitored. The back-end server then acts as a message broker which forwards and monitors messages between client and volunteer.

We’ve mapped message key words and button presses action types, which are then handled by associated message handlers. Wit.ai is then used to perform sentiment analysis on each message and clients are urged to contact emergency support if their messages are determined to be at a high risk of harming themselves or others.

Try it out by messaging our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SaveALife.1.800.273.8255

Challenges I ran into

This was our first time integrating with the Facebook Messenger API so we needed to spend time researching and scoping out the feasibility of building our application in one day.

It was also our team’s first time implementing a Natural Language Processing system but we had a lot of fun configuring our Wit.ai app to integrate with our Facebook Messenger Chatbot.

Accomplishments that we’re proud of

We are very proud of creating an application that provides social good that anyone can use at any given time. We are also proud of completing out first hack-a-thon and could not be more thrilled to partake in Facebook’s first NYC hack-a-thon.

What we learned

As first time hack-a-thoners, we learned a lot about working together as a team, being able to brainstorm and vet ideas quickly, identify bugs early on and collectiving use our problem-solving skills to find creative solutions to make it work.

What's next for Facebook Messenger Chatbot for Suicide Prevention

We plan on spreading awareness around mental health by sharing our Facebook page and Messenger bot with friends, family, local communities on Facebook, Reddit and other social media platforms. We hope to create a community within Facebook dedicated to helping and improving the lives of others. We believe that this unique Chatbot has the potential to save lives around the world and make the world a better place.

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