The internet giant Google is getting involved in depression issues. Together with the National Alliance if Mental Illness, Google has managed to produce one of the most interesting tools to this date. The way it works is that users will be prompted by a message when they search for particular terms related to mental health. This would look similar to the question like “Are you discouraged” with “yes” and “no” possible answers.
The idea is that if you click “yes” is that you will be prompted by the PHQ-9 form which is an approved form to understand overall health and depression. It is not clear which search queries will trigger the form but Google says that at least 5% of them are health related issues. This is why it is important for the internet giant to know which terms are actually connected to depression and this is where the collaboration with the National Alliance for Mental Illness might prove useful.
Questions on Ethics
It remains to be seen how such a powerful search engine can cope with health issues although this would not be the first tool with this concern. One of the critiques which come in this direction is from people who fear privacy and this is why Google will have to ensure that it is doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the data and the answers from the questionnaire. The questionnaire itself cannot solve depression but it can offer scientists a better perspective on how to approach this complex problem. Curing depression is a long process which may not even happen as many people believe. Some people live with depression for their whole lives while others may not even be aware they are suffering from the condition. This is why it will be important to assess all of these characteristics into developing a useful solution.
What Google has created can be a good news towards something great. It can actually be a step to a professional approach to depression which can take potential sufferers away from unofficial pages with poor advice and poor solutions to the problem to a more scientific-based approach. This is one of the main problems with internet health advice and this can represent a right step in the direction of regulation and guidance from a scientific perspective.
Google`s tool to diagnose depression can be an interesting solution in a future where although information is widely available it is rarely based on scientific evidence. This is why the internet giant can now provide small steps in the direction of improvement where there have been no previous attempts of improving the situation. And since depression is still very personal this is why many people would turn to the internet for advice when they could actually benefit from talking to professional or reading materials from professionals. Looking beyond the classic search results which impact objectivity is essential and Google might be doing the right thing by publishing this tool, it will remain to be seen how it manages issues of privacy.