President Trump considers new project that would use Apple Watch to identify mental illness that could lead to violent behavior

President Trump has been briefed on a proposal to develop a way to identify early signs of changes in people with mental illness that could lead to violent behavior. The proposal is part of a larger initiative to establish a new agency called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA), modeled on DARPA, the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which would be part of the Health and Human Services Department.

Supporters of HARPA see the plan as a way the president could address mass murder involving guns following recent tragedies as efforts seem to be flagging to impose harsher restrictions such as background checks on gun purchases.

Jacqueline Alemany for The Washington Post:

The president has said he thinks mentally ill people are primarily responsible for the spate of mass shootings in the United States. And this proposal is likely to be welcomed by Republicans and gun-rights activists who have argued the same thing. “We’re looking at the whole gun situation,” Trump said last week. “I do want people to remember the words ‘mental illness.’ These people are mentally ill. . . . I think we have to start building institutions again because, you know, if you look at the ’60s and ’70s, so many of these institutions were closed.”

The idea is for the agency to develop a “sensor suite” using advanced artificial intelligence to try to identify changes in mental status that could make an individual more prone to violent behavior. The research would ultimately be opened to the public.

HARPA would develop “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence,” says a copy of the proposal. “A multi-modality solution, along with real-time data analytics, is needed to achieve such an accurate diagnosis.” The document goes on to list a number of widely used technologies it suggests could be employed to help collect data, including Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

MacDailyNews Take: This is an interesting idea that certainly warrants further study, at least. Apple’s ResearchKit framework is already producing medical insights and discoveries at a pace and scale never seen before. Apple Watches have already been used or are currently in use for mass research studies for Parkinson’s disease, autism, melanoma, epilepsy, postpartum depression, sleep disorders, concussions, heart health, and more.

MacDailyNews Note: Thoughtful commentary on this issue is welcomed below. Please keep the discussion civil and on-topic. Off-topic posts and ad hominem attacks will be deleted and those who post such comments will be moderated/blocked. Permanent loss of screen name could also result.


  1. I remember when all the Mental Asylums were dissolved. Obviously families, neighbors and police departments can’t keep track of and monitor these people adequately. Many end up on the streets. The problem with the Asylums was they were not well run—not that they weren’t needed. We need to rethink them, and run them correctly. There are people that should not be unsupervised out in society trying to fend for themselves. It’s cruel not to have proper facilities to care for their specific needs. Now families struggle with knowing the person has mental issues, but the family doesn’t have a way to handle it. Counselors aren’t enough in many cases, and those with severe problems need supervision besides counseling.

    1. “President.” “Trump.” Really? In the same sentence? A blind deaf and dumb person could instantly identify this moron as being the Most mentally disturbed person in “ politics.” Don’t need no app for that.

  2. Identifying someone as mentally ill would be useless in preventing mass shootings or other types of gun violence.. Look at your own families. How many of you know someone who is taking an antidepressant or medication for anxiety, or who drinks too much or abuses drugs? The actual proposal is to develop “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence.” This seems to me to be a dumb idea. If’ I’ve got plans to undertake the types of violence this is aimed at, I’d just stop wearing my watch.

      1. Thank you for pointing out the obvious parallel to Philip K. Dick’s great story about government overreach. When I started as a prosecutor in the early 1980’s, we had a local police department that regularly arrested folks for “BATCO” until we convinced them that “Being about to commit an offense” was not an arrestable crime.

        BATCO was obviously shorthand for “walking or driving while black, brown, or countercultural.” The notion that we would all be safer if we were required to wear government monitors and submit to summary arrest and detention if Big Brother determined we were BATCO would be misused much the same way.

        As a prosecutor, I handled mental commitments for nearly 30 years. I can assure you that violence was uncommon in that population and not reliably predictable aside from obviously imminent dangers. The idea that we might lock up folks who the Government decides pose a remote danger is horrifying. It is not just out of Dick, but out of Orwell.

        1. TxUser, you and I often disagree here, but you’re spot on about this. Mental illness is NOT the cause of the mass shootings in the U.S., unless we believe that wanting to enact violence against strangers is itself a mental illness of its own. I I don’t think many believe that, whether politically right or left.

          Blaming mental illness for mass shootings in the U.S. is only happening because most of the shooters are white. So, instead of looking at whatever poisonous ideologies the shooter espouses and seeing who they have been associating with, those in power have to find some cause that excuses/ignores those ideologies. It’s gross.

          Then, it’s even more disgusting (and a typical authoritarianism tactic) to use that complete red herring as a reason to build a thought crime monitoring system everyone is supposed to wear all the time. No reasonable person should support this system – you have to be completely ignorant of history and reality to not realize how thoroughly such a system would be abused.

          1. Although I mostly agree…I must point out that here in Canada, when we have had Islamic based incidents, they’re quickly diagnosed as mental illness instead of ideological.

    1. What percentage of the population is on anti-depressants these days? My buddy hung himself, and I blame his abnormal behaviour leading up to this on them. Hell…the prescriptions are written without even counseling involved. Not to mention, any combination with other drugs. Society is failing…

      1. Government issued a device to verify your health and well-being? Next it will be proposed that personal assistants will be required to be “always on” (like they aren’t already), including the “privacy” company’s (APPL), and fed to the government for scoring.

      1. The Dayton mass murderer, Connor Betts, retweeted extreme left-wing and anti-police posts, as well as tweets supporting Antifa.

        The most recent tweet on the account was on August 3, the day of the shooting, when he retweeted a post saying, “Millenials have a message for the Joe Biden generation: hurry up and die.” The user’s Twitter bio reads: “he/him / anime fan / metalhead / leftist / I’m going to hell and I’m not coming back.” One tweet used the hashtag #HailSatan.

        The account retweeted messages supporting Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as posts against ICE agents, including one that said, “these people are monsters,” and multiple posts condemning police, and supporting Antifa protesters, who often use violent tactics.

        1. Guess by now you understand you’ve been had, hook, line and sinker..
          I know how to check for facts as well. My response was to the idiot comment of D, which shows what’s really wrong in the USA..

            1. So less than 1 in 1000 on a total of 2.7 million uses their weapons in gun related crimes. Wow.. That’s 2,500 potential shooting incidents, and what’s worse, they don’t take into account the non-registered gun carrying adults.

              Guess what, I rather live far away from a place where there’s 2,500 potential shootings about to happen.

        2. One can always find a single datapoint to support his narrative. Meanwhile you brazenly ignore the overwhelmingly obvious trends.

          From the Gun Violence Archive:

          Aug. 31, 2019: Odessa, Texas, 7 dead: shooter was a white man in his 30’s

          Aug. 4, 2019: Dayton, Ohio, 9 dead + 27 injured: shooter Connor Betts, 24 and white, killed his sister among the others

          Aug. 3, 2019: El Paso, 22 dead + 26 injured: shooter Patrick Crusius, 21 and white, was radicalized by 8chan and complained of an “invasion” of latino immigrants

          May 31, 2019: Virginia Beach, Va., 12 dead+ 6 injured: shooter DeWayne Craddock, 40, unleashed his violence against other gov’t employees

          Feb. 15, 2019: Aurora, Ill., 5 dead + 6 injured: shooter Gary Martin, 45, killed coworkers and injured the first 5 police officers to arrive at the scene. A prior felony conviction didn’t prevent him from buying a handgun

          Nov. 7, 2018: Thousand Oaks, 12 dead + 18 injured: shooter Ian David Long, 28, a former Marine, unloaded several clips from a .45 cal handgun before killing himself

          Oct. 27, 2018: Pittsburgh, 11 dead + 6 injured: shooter Robert Bowers, 46, was a truck driver with history of anti-semitic posts, unleashed his violence at the Tree of Life Synagogue

          June 28, 2018: Annapolis, Md., 5 dead: shooter Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, was upset that the Capital Gazette had published the news that he had criminally harrassed a woman who had rejected him. Apparently believing the president’s repeated claims that free press is the “enemy of the state”, Ramos used a 12 gauge shotgun to murder newspaper staff. The survivors heroically reported the accurate news the next day.

          May 18, 2018: Santa Fe, Texas, 10 dead + 13 indured: shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, used his fathers shotgun and revolver to terrorize his high school in the Houston suburbs

          Feb. 14, 2018: Parkland, Fla., 17 dead + dozens wounded: shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons. He sought revenge with a semiautomatic rifle.

          Nov. 5, 2017: Sutherland Springs, Texas, 26 dead: shooter Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, an Air Force veteran with a history of domestic violence, used an AR-15 to murder churchgoers at the First Baptist Church. Records indicate that the Air Force had not reported Kelley’s court martial for domestic violence to the FBI database, thereby allowing him to pass a background check so he could buy his weapons.

          Oct. 1, 2017: Las Vegas, 58 dead + over 500 injured: shooter Stephen Paddock, a white 64 year old professional gambler, used 23 weapons including 14 modified with bump stocks in a planned attack to spray bullets into the audience at the Route 91 Harvest music festival. Only quick response by the police prevented greater carnage.

          June 5, 2017: Orlando, Fla., 5 dead: shooter John Robert Nuemann Jr, 45, an Army veteran, murdered 5 coworkers

          Jan. 6, 2017: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.,5 dead + 8 injured: shooter Esteban Santiago, 26, an Army veteran, drew his gun from his checked baggage at the airport and unloaded it.

          Sept. 23, 2016: Burlington, Wash., 5 dead: shooter Arcan Cetin, 20, claims he had planned to use his father’s semiautomatic Ruger rifle to murder moveigoers, but was unable to enter his chosen theater side door. So he went to Macy’s and murdered department store shoppers instead. He died of an apparent suicide in jail less than a year later.

          June 12, 2016: Orlando, Fla., 49 dead + 58 injured: shooter Omar Mateen, 29, used an AR-15 to murder his hostages, clubgoers at the Pulse nightclub who turned out to dance for Latin Night. The ordeal lasted until 5am, when the SWAT team used an armored vehicle to close in on the domestic terrorist.

          Dec. 2, 2015: San Bernardino, 14 dead + 22 injured: shooters Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 29 murdered his coworkers. Police later found an arsenal of weapons in their home.

          Oct. 1, 2015: Roseburg, Ore., 9 dead + 9 injured: shooter Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, 26, unleashed mayhem at the second class meeting that year of Writing 115 at Umpqua Community College. Law enforcement sources later described him as a “hate-filled” individual with anti-religious and white supremacist leanings. At the time of the shootings, he was armed with six legally purchased handguns and a flak jacket.

          July 16, 2015: Chattanooga, Tenn., 5 dead: shooter Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, a US citizen with a history of drug and alcohol problems, apparently motivated by foreign propaganda, opened fire in a drive-by attack on 2 different military centers with an AK-47 semiauto rifle and 9mm handgun. Bystanders report that he fired 30-45 shots at the Armed Forces Career Center before ramming through the gate at the US Naval reserve 7 miles away where he proceeeded to unload at least another 50 rounds.

          June 18, 2015: Charleston, S.C., 9 dead; shooter Dylann Storm Roof, 21, shouted racial epithets before opening fire on a bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

          Draw your own conclusions how any of these domestic terrorists are “liberal”, D. You seem to be happy casting aspersions on your political enemies rather than proposing common sense reforms that could reduce the number of these senseless tragedies.

          An Apple Watch isn’t going to help.

          1. His one datapoint isn’t much, either. The Dayton shooter had a very long history of openly threatening sexual and homicidal violence against women. Radical, perhaps, but not liberal by any rational standard. The Congressional softball shooter is the only case I know of involving a politically-motivated gun attack with leftish motives. Balance that against all the examples listed above by people from the rightward end of the spectrum

            1. You are REALLY insane. There is nothing remotely resembling that. Let’s have your references for these supposed numbers. And Mr. Lizard People doesn’t count as a reliable source.

            2. Sean,

              Since you are too stupid to learn on your own here is just one:

              “…in the 1990s, there were more than 2.2 million defensive gun uses each year in the United States.

              That was the finding of a 1993 study (“Results from the National Self-Defense Survey,” updated in 1998) by Florida State University criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. Their findings reveal another statistic that will shock everyone but gun owners: on average, 2.7 million adults legally carry a gun for protection—and less than one in a thousand of them are involved in gun-related crime.”


              The CDC number is 250,000 per year. Ask a first grader to look it up for you.

            3. That study was based on a ridiculously small telephone poll asking “Have you or someone you know stopped a crime by the use or threatened use of a firearm?” That includes people whose Grampa chased off teenaged trespassers on his lawn by yelling, “I’ve got a gun!” The researchers then scaled up the few positive responses to the entire US population.

              The gun industry’s captive lobby (you do know who funds the NRA, right?) then converted those extrapolated “crimes prevented” into “lives saved.” Even the people who published the study have rejected that use of it.

              Your “fact” is a myth, like the supposed liberal gunmen. For another perspective, see this from a Texas police chief:

      2. The Dayton shooter was a full blown, Warren supporting leftist and El Paso? That racist’s manifesto read like a “How To” manual published by the DNC.
        Oh wait. What was your point again?

        1. I would enjoy a reference to the DNC manual that advocates killing people because they are female or Hispanic. Nobody here is suggesting that Republicans are homicidal racists, even though their Fearless Leader popularized the themes in the recent murderers manifestos. Neither should anybody be fingering the Democrats. We have a common enemy.

        2. Can you name the Dayton shooter or are you so eager to score points for your political team that you will repeat lies attempting to link a domestic terrorist to a specific Democratic candidate for president?

          There is absolutely no evidence indicating Connor Betts supported Warren or Sanders as the usual Republican talking heads have alleged. You go ahead and prove otherwise.

          The entire Betts family may have leaned Democratic, and Megan Betts, the shooter’s sister and one of the first murdered, studied environmental science in college, indicating she would support a party that cared about environmental health. Connor had no such history. Connor himself had a history of misogynistic behavior, including fronting a band known for anti feminist lyrics. Connor was also obsessed with guns and violence, classmates had ostracized him and some knew he sought revenge with a list of targets he wanted to kill. Too bad nobody took proactive steps. Connor was most likely bipolar and motivated by hate in a national culture that makes guns an easy tool to grab. He was not a political operative, not a religious nut jihadist, and not a gang member. He was a white privileged suburban kid who needed help. Instead he got revenge with a gun.

          But in your worldview, stopping this mass murder or taking any steps to keep guns out of the hands of sick people like Connor is simply not allowable. After all, Connor might have been a democrat. You would love nothing more than to have all those evil democrats shot, right? A one party system with your party in power is perfect in your opinion.

          You, sir, are as almost as mentally sick as these domestic terrorists. That is the problem with your country. Divided you will fall indeed.

  3. I’m a psychiatrist. This is an awful idea and meant only to divert attention. Move along. Nothing to see here. You do know you are being played, right?! Where have all the libertarians gone.

  4. We know this is only being proposed as a distraction because one of the first bills Trump signed was a repeal of legislation aimed at keeping guns from those diagnosed with certain mental illnesses. The NRA would never stand for it.

  5. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best… simply deny access to any gun to any citizen. We have locks on car doors, not to prevent thieves from stealing things, but to provide a barrier to thieves and make it difficult for them. A determined thief will break a window.

    Yet, we effectively have the windows rolled down and all the locks disengaged when it comes to allowing access to assault weapons.

    Much of these shootings are crimes of opportunity. Simply put, you need to control access.

  6. Trumpistas: please explain how an accelerometer on a wrist will predict chemical imbalance in the brain. No watch has reliable blood sensing, period.

    We’ll wait for your mental gymnastics to defend the latest distraction from the Tweet in Chief.

    Also, if its so revolutionary and time saving, doesn’t ultra-busy Trump need an Apple watch? You should send him one. Imagine how efficient his tweets and golf could be.

    1. Agreed. Partisan attacks from both sides does nothing but gridlock the nation.

      That being said, “D” levied the first partisan attack and, like it or not, there has been some strange behavior from the White House for the last few years. Beyond the incessant lies, the loyalty oaths, the string of convictions of former staff, the rotating cabinet door, and the constant scapegoating there is the simple matter of competence. The least well-read president in history claims to always be right, while spending millenial-like time on TV and social media to attack anyone who doesn’t fellate him. He exhibits the demeanor of a very paranoid, egotistical, narcissistic maniac. Invariably, all government policy today is being pushed to maximize media image regardless of long term results. SNL skits with Chevy Chase as Ford were more presidential than what we see and hear everyday. Independents like me and principled conservatives have a duty to ignore the rabid left and right and correctly call Trump the con man he is.

      Does this person look mentally stable? Would an Apple Watch on that flabby French-cuffed wrist help us to know?

  7. Blithering, stupid nonsense. I’ll repeat what many have said before — other western nations have similar mental health problems, immigration, poverty, etc.

    What does the US uniquely have to explain their uniquely and monstrously high murder rate? I’d suggest easy access to guns plus constant glorification of guns as a mark of “real” masculinity. Some other western nations have high gun ownership… but they have rigorous background checks and a totally different social framework around having a gun.

  8. Stop the crime before it happens (although if you are insane, you can’t form intent, so no criminal charge…). I see. Mmm, mm, uhuh, sure. And while we’re at it let’s just build in a small explosive charge or polonium pellet so the AI algorithm can just off you when it decides you’re going over the edge. AI has worked so well on other things like the 737 Max, for example. And small devices are completely unhackable, of course.

  9. This orange-faced blob is clearly well on his way into senility. E.g. his stupid sharpie line and doubling down on it, in spite of the weather experts contradicting him.

  10. He’s not “mentally disturbed”. It’s WAY past time everyone called it for what it is… and this Dorian episode wonderfully illustrates it.
    The guy is SENILE… and rapidly becoming more so, almost by the week.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.