The popular search engine, Google, now tells users if they might be suffering from clinical depression. All it takes to know that is to google “depression,” completing the standard questionnaire that Google features.

This initiative is part of Google’s attempt to take on health and wellness spheres. The clinically-based “PHQ-9 test” is shown at the top of the search results once people look up for depression on Google. This project was fostered in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Image credit: Reuters / The Sun
Image credit: Reuters / The Sun

“We want to get this information into people’s hands … so they can know if they should get evaluated,” said Ken Duckworth who is the medical director of NAMI. “Knowing that PHQ-9 score can help with that.”

Now people can be tested by Dr. Google

It is not a surprise that Google came up with this new initiative to help people know if they are somewhat depressed. Google has stated its goal to become something like “Dr. Google”, meaning that it wants to put more attention on the health issues. For example, it has already invested in a startup that makes smartphones become something like a health diagnostic tool.

Googling health tips and health related-concerns has become a growing trend among people worldwide. Maybe because going to the doctor is way too expensive, maybe because people are just looking for a minor issue or just because googling is faster and they don’t have to waste time setting a medical appointment. Therefore, it is an excellent idea that Google gets the help from health associations and institutes to give users a more accurate answer to their health inquiries.

This time, the alliance was made with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If people look up for “depression,” they will have the chance to complete a test on mental health. The questionnaire is composed of 9 questions to get information about the appetite, how often people feel uninterested if they show pleasure when doing things or if people have problems concentrating. For NAMI, the alliance with Google to create this initiative is absolutely positive because it promotes mental health awareness. Google also said that the information given as test results are “sensitive and private,”  so it won’t be stored.

Clearly, a test cannot offer a full diagnosis or the right treatment for a particular case of clinical depression, but it helps people know if they show depression symptoms so they can get the proper medical health attention.

Image credit: Wccftech
Image credit: Wccftech

300 million people are living with depression, and a lot of them are not aware of their issues

This kind of feature can also contribute to a faster diagnosis. According to NAMI’s chief executive officer, Mary Giliberti, those who have the symptoms of clinical depression are treated with a delay that ranges between six and eight years, which means that they can go on for years without taking proper care of their mental issues. She also said that this partnership empowers and educates people making them more conscious of the importance of mental health. However, NAMI highlights that Google can never replace an actual doctor, but googling can be a first step to an accurate diagnosis.

About 72 percent of Americans search for medical information online. Last year, Google reported that one perfect of all the users’ search was related to medical symptoms. Therefore, It is important to know that people should not believe everything they find on the web when it comes to health. Something an auto-diagnosis can be extremely alarming and people can end up thinking they have a disease they don’t actually have.

“The results of the PHQ-9 can help you have a more informed conversation with your doctor,” wrote Mary Giliberti, CEO of NAMI. “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,” explained Giliberti.

Image credit: / BetterHelp
Image credit: / BetterHelp

This test can help people make better health choices

They also expect that this initiative helps reducing stigma about mental issues. Dr. Duckworth said that there are almost 300 million people worldwide living with depression and a lot of them don’t know that or are not able to identify their symptoms.

“Depression is a public health crisis that many people don’t seek help for and many people don’t know that they’re walking around with it,” he said. “Mental health conditions are treatable and this is why getting information is useful. We want people to make better health choices for their lives.” Said Ken Duckworth.

Depression affects about 1 in 5 Americans at least once in their lifetime. As well, it is unfortunate that over the last two decades the number of teens and children who have been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts has nearly doubled.

Source: The Guardian