Working in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to ensure that the test is accurate, Google announced the feature on its the Keyword blog. According to Google spokeswoman, Susan Cadrecha, the test “will be fully rolled out on mobile in the US over the next day or so,” the Verge reported.
“Clinical depression is a very common condition—in fact, approximately one in five Americans experience an episode in their lifetime”, writes Mary Giliberti, CEO at NAMI. The Financial Times attributed this figure to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration figures from 2015.
In response to a prevalent need, Google’s integration of a PHQ-9 screening questionnaire is intended not to treat the condition, but to help users “have a more informed conversation” with their doctor, Giliberti writes.
The partnership hopes that by making this information available on Google, more people will seek treatment. According to the company, one in 20 searches on Google are health related, though it has not divulged how many are mental health related.
Nevertheless, it is a high-profile move for a tech company to take responsibility for the impact it has on users’ wellbeing. Due to the demand for accurate and reliable health information, the screening test is part of a larger effort to provide it.
According to the FT, Google has dedicated a team, including a doctor, to work on delicate health-related searches. In addition to the depression questionnaire, the company already keeps ‘knowledge boxes’ for other common conditions, such as flu and tonsillitis, created with information from the Mayo Clinic.
In March, Facebook, began testing an AI-powered system to detect and prevent suicide. It has also integrated support functions on its photo-sharing Instagram platform.
This kind of data is incredibly sensitive, and Google has been clear that questionnaire responses would not be recorded, and users will not receive ads targeted to them because of their responses, according to Vidushi Tekriwal, Google’s product manager.
Data sourced from the Google, NAMI, The Verge, Financial Times, Facebook, Engadget; additional content by WARC staff