Home Mental Health Google Adds Feature that Screens Users for Depression

Google Adds Feature that Screens Users for Depression

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Google is rolling out a feature that will screen users for depression.

People who use certain keywords like “depression”  are given a ‘Knowledge Panel’ alongside their results offering mental health resources. This new feature will also ask them  to ‘tap if you’re clinically depressed.’ If the user checks the box, they will be prompted to take a questionnaire, the PHQ-9, to gauge their mental health and help them determine if they should seek professional help.

The PHQ-9 is a commonly used and highly accurate tool in screening individuals for depression. Google’s hopes in making it available are to better inform people about their symptoms and embolden them to take the first step towards talking to a mental health professional. According to a blog post released by Google, those who experience symptoms of depression struggle with a “6-8 year delay in getting treatment” (Giliberti 2017, p.5).

Google has partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for this initiative. According to NAMI’s website, “an estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year” (NAMI n.d., p.3).

The website goes on to explain that early detection and treatment is key in responding to depression, and that there are a variety of symptoms and causes– so if someone feels as if they are struggling with depression but they do not feel they fit a cookie cutter concept of the disorder, they should look into being screened by, for example, the PHQ-9. NAMI also says that only 50 percent of people with depression seek treatment; this partnership with Google is casting a wider net of awareness to help combat that statistic.

The PHQ-9 is by no means a conclusive diagnosis, nor can it offer treatment or alleviate any symptoms. It is a simply a jumping off point for people who may be grappling with whether or not they are struggling with depression, and an accurate one at that. According to the University of Washington’s Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions (AIMS) Center, the benefits of the PHQ-9 as a screening tool include its accessibility, in that it can be self-administered, that it “facilitates diagnosis of major depression, [it] provides assessment of of symptom severity, [and it] is well validated and documented in a variety of populations” (PHQ-9 Depression Scale n.d., p.3).

According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 6.7 percent of all Americans display at least one symptom of depression. Such symptoms can include “anxiety, apathy, loss of interest in daily activities, difficulty concentrating and mood swings. Depression also can manifest as physical symptoms such as lack or increased appetite, generalized pain, weight gain or loss. Many people with clinical depression also experience sleep problems such as insomnia or sleepiness” (Firger 2017, p.4).

Early identification of these problems is the best way to combat them, and though it remains to be seen how effective Google’s new feature will be in aiding this identification, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

For more on this topic please read, “Learning more about clinical depression with the PHQ-9 questionnaire.”


Firger, J. (2017, August 24). Think you have clinical depression? Google wants to help. Retrieved August 26, 2017, from http://www.newsweek.com/google-clinical-depression-self-assessment-test-screening-internet-654846

Giliberti, M. (2017, August 23). Learning more about clinical depression with the PHQ-9 questionnaire. Retrieved August 26, 2017, from https://www.blog.google/products/search/learning-more-about-clinical-depression-phq-9-questionnaire/

NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved August 26, 2017, from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression

PHQ-9 Depression Scale. (n.d.). Retrieved August 26, 2017, from https://aims.uw.edu/resource-library/phq-9-depression-scale

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