New feature by Google to help screen for depression

A common mental disorder, depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide. A leading cause of disability and a serious mental illness, it is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Though feelings of sadness and mood swings at times is normal, depression is characterized by the persistent presence of such feelings. A widespread illness, it is often as physical as it is psychological. Disrupting one’s daily life, at its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

While there are a plethora of effective treatment options available for depression, fewer than half of those affected receive timely treatment. A treatable illness, the stigma surrounding the disease often makes a sufferer reluctant to seek appropriate professional help. Barriers to treating depression and other mental disorders also include lack of resources and trained health care professionals.

The latest to offer help pertaining to this widespread illness is Google. When someone searches for clinical depression or any other depression-related disorder, a new feature by Google will appear on the top of the results page. The feature referred to as the knowledge panel, will not only offer information about the disorder but also give an option to check if the user is clinically depressed.

Developed in collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the new feature will be fully rolled out on mobile devices across the U.S. in the coming days. It includes a 9-point screening questionnaire and will analyze an individual’s level of depression and the need for an in-person or face-to-face evaluation.

Groundbreaking move

According to NAMI, while one in five Americans experiences some or the other form of depression, only half get the required treatment. A first-of-its-kind move in the field of mental health, the philosophy supporting the alliance is that awareness about this debilitating illness would help empower and educate the public, enabling them quicker access to treatment. Presently, people suffering from depression wait for an average eight to 10 years before they seek treatment.

Google has clarified that the self-assessment will be private as its sole aim is to educate the individual and steer him or her towards professional intervention. Further, the questionnaire responses would neither be stored by the company nor used for target advertising.

Screening based on PHG-9 questionnaire

Google will use the clinically validated PHQ-9 questionnaire for the screening. Calling it a helpful tool in diagnosing a mental illness, NAMI CEO Mary Gilberti said, “The PHQ-9 can be the first step to getting a proper diagnosis…and while this tool can help, it’s important to note that PHQ-9 is not meant to act as a singular tool for diagnosis.” She added, “We hope that by making this information available on Google, more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve the quality of their lives.”

According to Susan Cadrecha, Google’s spokesperson, the quiz will initially only appear on mobile devices but the company is hopeful of expanding it to desktop browsers in the near future.

Road to recovery

A nondiscriminatory illness, depression affected an estimated 16.1 million American adults (aged 18 years and above) in 2015. Symptoms of depression include sad and irritable mood, along with somatic and cognitive changes that can affect how one thinks, feels, behaves and handles daily life activities. When left untreated, depression can contribute to other mental illnesses, increase chances of risky behaviors, and causes problems in one’s social and personal life.

At Sovereign Health, we offer comprehensive, intensive and holistic mental health treatment programs to all our patients in a safe, private and trigger-free environment. Our team of experienced mental health experts focus on providing quality mental health treatment modalities and evidence-based therapies for all major mental disorders, such as depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, etc.

If you or someone you know is suffering from any kind of mental illness, it is important to seek professional help and treatment at the earliest. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-973-7164 to know more about our mental health treatment centers in California. You can even chat online with our representatives to get further details about our mental health treatment centers in Los Angeles and other states of the U.S.

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