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Are you clinically depressed? Google, mental health alliance launch online screening

Kansas City Star - 8/25/2017

Aug. 24--Google and the National Alliance on Mental Illness are launching an online survey to help Google users decide whether they might have depression and should seek help.

The new feature "will be fully rolled out on mobile in the U.S. over the next day or so," Google spokeswoman Susan Cadrecha told The Verge.

Users in the United States who ask depression-related questions of Google on a mobile device will see a box on top of the results, a "Knowledge Panel," pop up when they click through the search suggestions.

Clicking on "check if you are clinically depressed" will take them to a clinically validated screening questionnaire called PHQ-9.

It's a private self-assessment that creates a score reflecting the severity of the user's depression, according to Fortune. It is not meant to be a medical evaluation, stressed NAMI and Google.

NAMI, said to be the country's largest mental health advocacy group, wants to get people thinking about and doing something about their depression, because not enough do.

"The first step to getting help is to say it out loud," says a NAMI video.

One in five Americans will experience an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime, Mary Giliberti, the group's CEO, writes in a blog post on Google.

"However, despite its prevalence, only about 50 percent of people who suffer from depression actually receive treatment," Giliberti wrote.

People who have symptoms of depression often wait six to eight years after they start experiencing them before they seek treatment for something that is treatable, she wrote.

"The PHQ-9 can be the first step to getting a proper diagnosis," she wrote.

Google says the information will not be recorded or shared, but users can use it to start a conversation with a doctor.

Google has launched other health-related features, including a BMI calculator and local pollen counters, according to Fortune. Other "knowledge panels" offer information about the flu, headaches and other common ailments.

People are clearly looking for help online. One in 20 Google searches are related to health, Google told the Financial Times.

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(c)2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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