NEWS

Zhisheng Huang wins 2019 Weibo Annual Impact Event

28 January 2020

Zhisheng Huang, senior researcher at VU Amsterdam and professor at Jiangsu University of Science and Technology, China, Beijing University of Technology, China, and the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, China, has been awarded for his work on the ​​Tree Hole Rescue Team.

More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression and more than 100,000 of these commit suicide in China each year. In April 2018, Huang established the “Tree Hole Rescue Team”, comprising students and staff from WUST University including the medical school, and affiliated Tianyou Hospital at WUST University.

The name “tree hole” is inspired from a fairy tale where a person with a secret speaks to a tree hole, and then seals the hole with mud to keep the secret forever. Nowadays, social media has become the “tree hole” for people to share their inner thoughts and many sufferers of depression in China choose to share their inner thoughts and feelings on Weibo.

The initial “Tree Hole Agent” from July 2018 worked by searching thousands of “tree holes” on social media, looking for people with suicidal tendencies. It provided warning reports every 6 hours, including the user’s Weibo number. Huang then forwarded the data to the “Tree Hole Rescue Team” WeChat group, and a network of volunteers were called into action to provide assistance.

Now in its 6th generation, the accuracy of data capture by the “Tree Hole Agent” has increased to 82%. The number of volunteers in the rescue team also continues to grow and there are now more than 30 WeChat groups with more than 500 volunteers, including psychiatrists, psychological consultants and regular carers, all over the world. Every day, this human-machine cooperation is rescuing suicidal users 24 hours a day. As of December 2019, 1,812 suicides have been prevented.

Huang’s research is continuing to more accurately judge and better assist sufferers of depression.

Check out the video of Huang receiving his award (in Chinese).