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Google Asks, ‘Are You Depressed?’

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Google has stepped in on the issue of mental health, launching a tool aimed at helping people who may have depression to seek treatment.

The Silicon Valley giant has teamed up with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to reach out to people by asking one question: Are you depressed? The project hopes to encourage people to evaluate their own mental health and prompt them to talk to someone who can help them, Forbes reports.

Whenever anyone on the Google search engine types a search term related to depression, a box will appear above the main results, asking if the user is depressed.

When “yes” is clicked, the person is immediately directed to PHQ-9, a questionnaire that clinicians use to help diagnose depression.

The questionnaire asks a user to rate symptoms that include “Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television,” and “Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or so fidgety or restless that you have been moving a lot more than usual.”

With this, Google hopes that people will fill out the questionnaire and share more information, depending on the results, with doctors or mental health professionals. This also aims to encourage those who have never sought treatment to overcome their hesitation. NAMI says that around 50% of people who suffer from depression don’t ask for help.

According to Google, around 5% of depression-related searches are about health. It’s unclear how much of these are about mental health.

Mary Giliberti, Chief Executive Officer at NAMI, said, “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.” She added, “We believe that awareness of depression can help empower and educate you, enabling quicker access to treatment. 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.”

Giliberti also said, “Clinical depression is a very common condition—in fact, approximately one in five Americans experience an episode in their lifetime.” Many people may even be unaware that they are depressed, unfamiliar with the symptoms or the condition as a clinical diagnosis.

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