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For mobile users who go to Google’s homepage and type terms like “clinical depression,” the search engine will now offer a screening questionnaire to help determine if they are experiencing symptoms of depression.

The new tool is the result of a partnership between Google and the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), which was announced on Wednesday.

According to a blog post detailing the partnership, Google explained that searching “clinical depression” on its website will prompt a Knowledge Panel to appear, which will provide general information on the definition of depression, symptoms and treatments. But it will also display the option to tap a link to “check if you’re clinically depressed.” By clicking the prompt, a mobile user will be directed to a page with the PHQ-9, a clinically validated screening questionnaire that assesses an individual’s likely level of depression.

PHQ-9 is a private self-assessment that helps determine a person’s depression level through a series of short questions, and can then suggest whether there is a need for a more in-depth, in-person evaluation. If so, the questionnaire also helps the individual be more informed when going to speak with a doctor.

Some questions on the survey ask the individual to rate on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 3 (nearly every day) whether they have experienced little interest or pleasure in doing things, if they have had a poor appetite or are overeating, or having trouble concentrating on things within the last two weeks of taking the survey. It then asks, if any of the listed problems were checked off by the individual, the questionnaire asks how much those problems impact the individual’s ability to go through their daily routine, take care of home life, or get along with other people.

The goal of the partnership is to raise awareness of this common condition, which affects one in five Americans at some point in their lives, and offer individuals more direct access to tools and information, according to NAMI.

Although the condition is very common, only about half of those with depression actually receive clinical treatment.

And those who have symptoms of depression experience an average of a six- to eight-year delay in getting treatment after the onset of symptoms, according to Mary Giliberti, chief executive officer of NAMI.

NAMI is considered the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. It involves an association with hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who provide support and education on depression and mental health.

Giliberti reiterated that the PHQ-9 questionnaire is just the first step in diagnosing and treating depression, and should not be used as a singular tool for diagnosis. But by making it readily available on a giant search engine like Google, more people who are suffering and seeking help can find it easier.

Credit: Google
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