Google seeks to help those who search about symptoms of depression

Google is often the first place people go to for answers and this is no different when it comes to depression. The search engine giant has recently unveiled a questionnaire for users in the USA to try and spot symptoms of the mental illness. Depression is a major problem globally and Google hopes to encourage people to seek help and advice if they may need it.

How does it work?

If users search depression based queries on Google in the USA, they will now find the option of taking a questionnaire. The results of this questionnaire aim to indicate if they may have depression, and if so, how severely. Google, in partnership with the mental health charity National Alliance on Mental Illness, have unveiled this questionnaire on the US search engine and if successful, hope to have it available in other countries in the near future.

According to Google, it is a clinically validated PHQ-9 questionnaire which screens, diagnoses, monitors and measures user’s depression.

The questionnaire helps to answer important questions regarding the illness by showing how severely someone may be depressed and offering advice on what to do next. The PHQ-9 questionnaire, as implied in the name, is made up of 9 questions and takes only about 5 minutes to complete. The results are private and the conclusion doesn’t provide a direct medical diagnosis and therefore is not a replacement for an expert in this field.  

What’s in the questionnaire?

The questions are asked with regards to how the person has been feeling during the previous two weeks. They are related to how severely they were affected by or suffered from things such as an excessive or poor appetite, trouble falling asleep or getting up, lack of interest in activities and many more. The results are presented on a sliding scale between the numbers of 1 and 27 with higher scores pushing the user towards the more ‘clinically depressed’ end of the spectrum.

The outcomes

Potential solutions are offered based on your score. If the answers are not enough to indicate that the person has clinical depression, suggestions to try and help symptoms may include things like exercising more or getting more sleep. At the top end of the scale, people may be advised to visit a doctor in order to gain a more informed understanding.

Why are Google getting involved?

In the US, clinical depression is very common, with approximately 1 in 5 Americans experiencing some form of it in their lifetime. Despite this, only about 50% of people who actually suffer from depression receive treatment. By making this screening more accessible, Google hopes to encourage more people to seek the help that they need as statistics show that most people wait at least 6-8 years before taking advice.

If you want to take this questionnaire and you are not a US user, a version of the questionnaire can be found here.