True to their mission of making the world's information universally accessible, #Google is changing the way it responds to people who seek information on depression. Its newest tool, which is a product of a partnership between Google and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), gives users from the United States an option to do a self-check on depression using a validated screening questionnaire.The latest feature is Google's initial effort on promoting mental health self-assessment in search results. The tech giant announced the latest feature on Wednesday.

PHQ-9

The self-report tool, named Patient Health Questionnaire or PHQ-9, aims to screen, diagnose, monitor, and measure the level or severity of depression.

US Google users prompt the questionnaire by typing in keywords depression or clinical depression. The results page will show an option at the top that reads "Check if you're clinically depressed." The test has nine questions with provisional diagnoses that range from minimal to major symptoms.

Users who choose to take and complete the test will get a score that indicates the severity of their symptoms. If deemed necessary, the severity score can be supplemental to a physician's diagnosis. It is important to highlight that the questionnaire is not a replacement for an official diagnosis. Rather, it can be used to determine the level of depression and to direct the users on to where to seek professional help.

On health issues

Aware of the stigma that surrounds depression, Google assures its users that answers generated from the tool will be confidential.

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The Knowledge Card feature in the search results further gives aid by providing more information about depression and encouraging people to get treatment. In this way, the tech firm hopes this potentially life-saving information could help people dealing with mental health issues.

As mentioned, the screening test is part of the company's plan to provide reliable health information. In fact, Google has a professional medical team, which includes a doctor assigned on sensitive health-related searches. Last week, they rolled out a pollen counter to help allergy sufferers. In 2016, they also launched a BMI calculator.

Google is not alone in this advocacy as Facebook is also testing artificial intelligence to detect suicidal comments. In addition, Instagram also launched a service to offer support to users on alarming posts. In all these cases, the tech giants are determined to give people accurate information and appropriate support, especially on sensitive matters such as depression. #Mental illness #National Alliance