We’ve all searched for answers to difficult or intimate questions online.
Now, those searching for information about depression on Google will be offered useful, science-backed help. Google has announced a partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to offer screening for depression, according to a post on the Google blog.
A mobile search for “depression” or “clinical depression” will bring up an option to “check if you are clinically depressed.” That leads users to the clinically validated PHQ-9, a version of the Patient Health Questionnaire that can be self-administered to help people figure out whether they should be evaluated by a mental health professional.
The feature is being rolled out now — here’s what it looks like:
Depression is one of the most common serious mental illnesses in the world. Approximately 20% of Americans will experience at least one episode of clinical depression, and 16 million US adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to NAMI. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention report that experiencing at least one episode of depression puts an individual at 50% higher risk for another.
Some common symptoms that the PHQ-9 checks for include a lack of interest in or pleasure from doing things, feeling down or hopeless, trouble concentrating, or thoughts of self-harm.
One of the main reasons Google and NAMI are offering this screening is that only about half of people who suffer from depression actually get help, Mary Giliberti, the CEO of NAMI, wrote on the Google blog. According to some studies, even in rich countries only 20% of people seek care for major depressive disorder. The number who get care in developing countries is far lower.
Research has suggested that even people who eventually seek treatment delay doing so for six to eight years.
“We hope that by making this information available on Google, more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life,” Giliberti wrote.
A screening tool isn’t all that’s needed for diagnosis or treatment, of course, but making screening more accessible could hopefully encourage more people to seek help.
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