AI training simulates real conversations to help prevent veteran suicide

Artificial intelligence is working to save the lives of American heroes.

A new product from ReflexAI called HomeTeam was launched this week, with the goal of preventing veteran suicide.

San Diego-based Callery described HomeTeam as a digital training tool that gives veterans the skills and confidence to support their fellow veterans through mental health challenges.

HomeTeam consists of four training modules: communicating support, talking about suicide, establishing safety, and connecting with resources.

“People know that the VA has mental health services,” said Dorison, who is based in New York. “What they don’t know is, ‘How can I be part of the solution for my friend I care about in a unique peer-support context?’”

HomeTeam’s mental health training program uses AI simulation, Callery said.

After completing a module, students are asked to test their skills by taking quizzes and interacting with an AI-powered chatbot called Blake.

Blake has been programmed by ReflexAI to converse like a real American military veteran.

The robot personality is a 35-year-old Navy veteran from Colorado Springs who faces several challenges that have affected his mental health.

A group of veterans speaking during a post-traumatic stress disorder support group.
fake images

“Blake is designed to sound authentic,” Callery said. “Blake sounds like a friend. Blake also swears like a friend. And this was based on a lot of feedback we received from veterinarians early on.”

HomeTeam users are encouraged to communicate with Blake, using open-ended questions to get the robot to “come out of its shell” until it confides in the student what’s on its mind.

“Building trust and getting someone to open up isn’t just about having a conversation with a friend, it’s about taking action and building a bridge,” Dorison said.

“And it’s supposed to be hard… It’ll take a few tries in real life, too. That’s part of the practice.”

Users can have multiple conversations with Blake in each module to explore different approaches.

John Callery, co-founder of ReflexAI and chief technology and product officer.
John Callery-Coyne / Linkedin

HomeTeam’s generative AI is designed to be “very responsive and agile” while keeping the conversation on track, Callery said.

“It’s generative AI, intended to foster human connection,” Dorison said.

“In every other aspect of your life in the military, you practice,” he continued. “Why wouldn’t the area that is so important to you, the mental health of your former bunkmates and battalion mates, be a place where you have the same opportunity to practice?”

“We see this AI as critical to reinforcing the skills that help you build closer connections and impact the lives of your friends.”

Veterans were involved during the creation of HomeTeam, Callery added.

This allowed creators to adjust content to match users’ expectations and experiences.

Sam Dorison, co-founder and CEO of ReflexAI, told Fox News Digital that the team feels a “particular commitment” to the veteran community.

“We feel a particular commitment to the veteran community, based on shared family history with members of the military,” Dorison said.

“It’s a community we feel obligated to serve.”

The idea for HomeTeam came about after ReflexAI was asked to present to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ways to improve veteran crisis training.

The team conducted research with veterans. Conducted national surveys, hosted focus groups, and participated in one-on-one interviews to develop the product.

Dorison said veterans in crisis traditionally turn to three groups: the VA, their families and other veterans, which led ReflexAI to focus its attention on peer support.

“We found that 92% of veterans are open to supporting or being supported by another veteran when they are in crisis, but only 25% are prepared to do so,” he said.

“We saw a huge opportunity to help close that gap. “Veterans want to help, they want to act, but they don’t feel like they can.”

The HomeTeam Dashboard displays the training modules, which are divided into subunits for veterans who may have difficulty concentrating.

Following this breakthrough in crisis support for veterans, Dorison and Callery founded ReflexAI in 2022 after working at the Trevor Project, a nonprofit group, as volunteer crisis counselors and executives.

HomeTeam has received positive feedback from organizations such as Irreverent Warriors, Stack Up, and Purple Heart Foundation, all of which have put the training into practice.

HomeTeam was publicly launched on Veterans Day so that any organization or individual could access it for free.

“Anyone can sign up,” Callery said. “The content focuses on the veteran’s experience, but it is about practical skills that everyone can learn to support other veterans in their lives.”

The hope is that one million veterans will experience HomeTeam during their first year, Dorison said.

“I don’t see why we can’t change the lives of 10 million veterans,” he also said.

HomeTeam’s chat simulation asks users to help the chatbot, Blake, overcome their own mental health issues.

“Our hope is that it really becomes an option for mental health veteran peer support.”

Dr. Harvey Castro, a Dallas, Texas-based board-certified emergency physician and national speaker on AI in healthcare, was not involved in the development of HomeTeam, but weighed in on its potential benefits and risks.

“As an emergency physician, I see the urgency of early intervention in mental health crises,” he told Fox News Digital. “HomeTeam’s focus on mental health and suicide prevention among veterans is a crucial step in providing timely support.”

Castro said he believes the app has the power to educate people about effective communication strategies and recognizing warning signs, which is essential for early intervention.

However, the AI ​​model could pose some limitations, Castro noted.

“AI may not fully capture the complexities of mental health issues, risking oversimplified approaches,” he warned.

“While AI offers scalability, it may lack the personalized touch of traditional therapy.”

There could also be concerns related to data privacy and the “digital literacy” of users, Castro added.

“Reflex AI’s HomeTeam app represents a significant advancement in the use of AI to support the mental health of veterans,” he said.

“Their innovative approach, combining AI with educational content and community building, is very promising,” he continued.

“Addressing potential drawbacks and evolving based on clinical research and healthcare integration will be critical to effectively serving the veteran community.”

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