Google, the patron of all things self-diagnosis, has, in fact, introduced a new self-assessment tool in Search — for depression. In this case, however, the self-assessment is based on a clinically validated questionnaire, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9).
It’s much needed, considering there was a 52% increase in Google searches for ‘panic attack’ and ‘anxiety’ last year, which the search data for ‘what is depression’ reached its high peak in more than a decade, according to Google Trends. The government itself launched a study looking at the mental health effects of COVID-19 and last year’s bushfires (yes, they were in the same year).
Here’s how the tool works. At the moment of search, people will be to fill out the questionnaire, see their risk for depression and be directed to evidence-based resources of support. These include crisis hotlines and information from Black Dog Institute and Lifeline.
Another reason it’s so necessary for Australians is the fact that over three million of us are living with anxiety or depression. Even though the numbers are high, one in five people who experience symptoms of mental illness in any given year won’t seek help — this first port of call will help people access support immediately; hopefully acting as a line of destigmatisation.
Jill Newby, associate professor at Black Dog Institute says, “It’s important to find new alternatives to existing support services.” Newby also spoke about the role technology plays in offering mental health support as well as connecting people to care — especially as people may not seek help due to geographical location, the costs associated, or their own comfort level.
Google’s announcement follows news from the government, announced yesterday, that there will be a commitment to $10 million for a national mental health research centre called ALIVE. The centre involves a national network of mental health researches working with more than 2,000 Australians living with mental health, to deliver better models of mental health care across the country.