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August 26, 2017

Google's latest tool will help users screen themselves for depression

A new tool from Google will work to help users screen their potential level of depression in hopes that they will seek proper treatment if necessary. 

Google has partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to roll out the feature, the groups announced on the Google blog earlier this week. Now, when mobile users in the U.S. search a term like "clinical depression," there will be an option to "check if you're clinically depressed."

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Users will then be prompted to take a PHQ-9, or a Patient Health Questionnaire. The PHQ-9 is a nine-question survey that asks how much sleep the person has been getting, if their appetite has worsened or how often they feel bad about themselves and more.

The PHQ-9 is clinically validated and widely used by health professionals, according to Google and NAMI.

The survey then determines a PHQ-9 "score," a range from zero to 27 that shows how "likely" the user is to have depression. The questionnaire then breaks down "what [that] means" and "how to find help."

The initiative was launched to encourage people who may be experiencing depression to get help sooner – many wait as long as eight years before consulting a medical professional, wrote Mary Giliberti, chief executive officer for NAMI in post.

About one in five people will also experience an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime, though only 50 percent seek proper treatment.

"We hope that by making this information available on Google, more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life," Giliberti said.

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