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Google’s US search results will let people check if they’re depressed

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People in the US who search Google for “depression” on their mobile phones will soon have the option to take a screening questionnaire to test whether they’re depressed. The new feature, which Google spokeswoman Susan Cadrecha says “will be fully rolled out on mobile in the US over the next day or so,” isn’t meant to subvert a medical evaluation. It’s meant to steer you to one if you appear depressed.

Clinical depression is a fairly common condition: about one in five Americans experience an episode in their lifetime, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, but only about 50 percent of people who have depression get treated for it.

When you Google “depression” in the US, you will see a box atop the results on mobile, which Google calls a Knowledge Panel. The box contains information on what depression is, what its symptoms are, and possible treatments. The update adds the option to tap on “check if you’re clinically depressed” and take a clinically validated screening questionnaire called PHQ-9. The self-assessment is private and is meant to help steer people who might be depressed toward in-person evaluations

“The results of the PHQ-9 can help you have a more informed conversation with your doctor,” according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which partnered with Google on the questionnaire.

The organization hopes that by making the questionnaire easily available on Google, more people will become aware of their own illness and seek treatment. People who have symptoms of depression — such as anxiety, insomnia, or fatigue — wait an average of six to eight years before getting treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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