Google has rolled out a new tool to detect depression in a bid to help people seek early medical treatment and save their lives.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 16 million adults in the country experience at least one major bout of depression each year, that’s almost 7 percent of the total population. Around the world, the World Health Organization estimates around 350 million people are suffering from depression at any given time.
Since these numbers seem set to only grow, Google has partnered with the US National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to offer a new tool which would allow users located in the U.S. to test if they’re clinically depressed.
So when you Google “depression”, or “am I depressed”, or “clinical depression”, you will be will be greeted by a PHQ-9 self-assessment questionnaire that will prompt you to check if you are clinically depressed. Mary Giliberti, chief executive officer of NAMI, explains:
“You may have noticed that in Google search results, when you search for depression or clinical depression in the U.S., you see a Knowledge Panel for the condition which provides general information about it, the symptoms, and possible treatment options. Today PHQ-9, a clinically validated screening questionnaire which can help identify levels of depressive symptoms is also available directly from the search result.
“By tapping “Check if you’re clinically depressed,” you can take this private self-assessment to help determine your level of depression and the need for an in-person evaluation. The results of the PHQ-9 can help you have a more informed conversation with your doctor.”
NAMI hopes the tool will encourage people to seek early medical treatment. Giliberti adds:
“Statistics show that those who have symptoms of depression experience an average of a 6-8 year delay in getting treatment after the onset of symptoms. We believe that awareness of depression can help empower and educate you, enabling quicker access to treatment.”
However, Giliberti warns PHQ-9 is neither meant to act as a singular tool for diagnosis nor aimed at replacing a diagnosis from your doctor. Instead, she argues, it is aimed at helping people have a more informed conversation with their doctors when they go for treatment:
“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.”