Tech giant Google introduced a bold idea to help those who think they may be suffering from depression but are not yet ready to go to a physician. On the Google page, whenever there is a search for “depression,” a question will appear asking users if they want to take part in a questionnaire. This is a 9-question test that can help determine if the person is potentially depressive or not.
Google has not been spared the flack for their attempt to help depression. This has mainly come from people who think that this is another way that the search giant is invading privacy or using its data to mine information about people.
Depression is a condition that is still not well-understood by the general population. People casually drop the word, as if depression means merely being sad about something. In addition, there is a stigma to depression because it is a mental health condition. There are still some people who believe that if you can get up in the morning without anything physically wrong with you, then you are healthy.
Depression is not quite well-accepted yet because a mental health issue, something the majority of people do not yet accept or understand. Even those who may have depression would rather deny that they are suffering from it—they would rather keep the condition to themselves instead of going to a doctor to have it confirmed and diagnosed. For a lot of people, it is better to be in doubt yet live in comfortable silence than to have it confirmed that you are mentally ill and experience humiliation from peers, friends, and even loved ones.
According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) in America, statistics show that one in five people will have a depressive episode in their lifetime. Of these, only half will reach out for support.
Paving the Way for Mental Health Tech
Google’s approach is discreet, yet it has the research to back it up. NAMI also believes that this is a big step forward in helping those who have depression. The test itself offered by Google is just a first step. It is recommendatory in nature, and is not binding—only a qualified doctor would be in a position to determine depression and to subsequently prescribe medication.
The assistance and support is the key. According to NAMI, it takes an average of seven years between initial onset of symptoms to the time that the patient receives treatment. During that time, there are a lot of hurdles to treatment. First off, those who have depression would usually not want to go to a doctor for a diagnosis. Even after being diagnosed for depression, the patient would often still be in denial. The stigma of mental illness is deep, often preventing the patient from understanding that the condition is treatable.
Clinical depression can worsen and last for months or even years. Getting a proper diagnosis is hard enough when the patient does not want, or is afraid, to be diagnosed. Sadly, the results of depression can get ultimately damaging, with more than one out of every ten people with depression ending up committing suicide.
Google has not been spared the flack for their attempt to help depression. This has mainly come from people who think that this is another way that the search giant is invading privacy or using its data to mine information about people. Objectively, this is one way for such a simple request for information can help an individual.
Doctors are also in a similar dilemma. Most times, the people who notice the symptoms for depression are friends and family; however, they cannot approach the general practitioner to ask about a person’s health, due to confidentiality issues. Family and friends can only ask that their loved one submit to a test from a general practitioner (GP).
Google’s simple questionnaire can streamline the process of diagnosis and subsequent treatment. While what they have is not a substitute for a proper psychiatric assessment, it could eventually lead to a person getting one. This bold idea can save more lives in the long run.