By Tim Fitzsimons
Google and New York-based nonprofit The Trevor Project are joining forces to use artificial intelligence in order to help LGBTQ youth in crisis.
The technology giant awarded The Trevor Project with a $1.5 million Google AI Impact grant, which will let the nonprofit incorporate Google’s artificial intelligence tools into its suicide prevention services.
“The Trevor Project saves lives by supporting at-risk LGBTQ youth via phone, text, and chat,” the Google Impact website states. “Using natural language processing and sentiment analysis, counselors will be able to determine a LGBTQ youth’s suicide risk level, and better tailor services for individuals seeking help.”
The Trevor Project was one of the 20 groups selected from more than 2,600 applicants for the Google AI Impact Challenge, which was an open call for proposals to use AI to “address social issues,” according to a press release. The Trevor Project’s proposal was to create a system that could better and more quickly serve the 1.5 million LGBTQ youth who experience some sort of suicidal ideation or crisis each year.
“Our crisis counselors work tirelessly every day to support these LGBTQ youth,” Trevor Project CEO Amit Paley said in a statement shared with NBC News. “This support from Google will allow our counselors to leverage AI and leading-edge technology to identify highest risk youth faster and serve them with even higher quality of care.”
The Trevor Project will be given access to Google’s AI technology, in addition to the $1.5 million in order to run the AI program, according to Sam Dorison, the nonprofit’s chief of staff. The Trevor Project plans to “incorporate machine learning and natural language processing into its crisis services,” with the hope that AI will help the organization more quickly assess the suicide risk of youth in crisis.
In order to protect the privacy of at-risk youth, none of the sensitive participant data will go to Google, according to Dorison.
Next week, Trevor Project executives will travel to Google headquarters to develop a project plan and set timelines for project completion. Google experts will work with each team through its Launchpad Accelerator to guide them as they incorporate artificial intelligence into their services.
Dorison said one goal is to more quickly identify what type of assistance a youth in crisis needs within the first or second message received by The Trevor Project. “What happens now is we talk to them for a while, we do a risk assessment, and from there the counselor then goes in,” Dorison said. “But a lot of what we learn in a structured way as we go, we would like to learn sooner in a conversation.”
“In the next few months,” Dorison added, “AI technology will become a cornerstone in The Trevor Project’s suicide prevention work as we continue to address mental health among LGBTQ young people.”
Jacquelline Fuller, president of Google.org, the company’s nonprofit arm, said the company is working toward having AI “achieve even great social impact.”
“At Google, we have seen how AI can help us accomplish daily tasks and travels, and we believe in its potential to help address some of the world’s biggest humanitarian challenges,” she said.