Journal of Medical Systems

, 43:246 | Cite as

Assessment of users’ acceptability of a mobile-based embodied conversational agent for the prevention and detection of suicidal behaviour

  • Juan Martínez-MirandaEmail author
  • Ariadna Martínez
  • Roberto Ramos
  • Héctor Aguilar
  • Liliana Jiménez
  • Hodwar Arias
  • Giovanni Rosales
  • Elizabeth Valencia
Mobile & Wireless Health
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Mobile & Wireless Health


The use of embodied conversational agents in mental health has increased in the last years. Several studies exist describing the benefits and advantages of this technology as a complement to psychotherapeutic interventions for the prevention and treatment of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few. A small number of these works implement capabilities in the virtual agent focused on the detection and prevention of suicidality risks. The work presented in this paper describes the development of an embodied conversational agent used as the main interface in HelPath, a mobile-based application addressed to individuals detected with any of the suicidal behaviours: ideation, planning or attempt. The main objective of HelPath is to continuously collect user’s information that, complemented with data from the electronic health record, supports the identification of risks associated with suicidality. Through the virtual agent, the users also receive information and suggestions based on cognitive behaviour therapy that would help them to maintain a healthy condition. The paper also presents the execution of an exploratory pilot to assess the acceptability, perception and adherence of users towards the virtual agent. The obtained results are presented and discussed, and some actions for further improvement of the embodied conversational agent are also identified.


Embodied conversational agents Suicide prevention Mobile health Mental healthcare 



This work has been funded by the “Fondo Sectorial de Investigación en Salud y Seguridad Social – FOSISS/CONACyT” under the research project 2016-1-273163 “Desarrollo de nuevas tecnologías y su integración al sector salud como ayuda a una estrategia integral de prevención del suicidio”. The author also acknowledges the “Cátedras CONACyT” program funded by the Mexican National Research Council (CONACyT).


This study was funded by the Mexican National Research Council (CONACyT grant number 2016–1-273163).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CONACYT – Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de EnsenadaUnidad de Transferencia TecnológicaTepicMexico
  2. 2.Servicios de Salud de NayaritTepicMexico
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de EnsenadaUnidad de Transferencia TecnológicaTepicMexico
  4. 4.Universidad VizcayaTepicMexico

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