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Google has created a tool that tests for clinical depression

Written by Katherine Ellen Foley
August 24, 2017
Presumed copyright: Quartz
Source; excerpts follow (drill down for hyperlinked references):

Quote

People often delay seeking treatment for mental health conditions like depression. The longer they wait to see their doctors, the worse the condition becomes, making it harder to treat in the future.

In an effort to encourage more patients to seek treatment sooner, Google announced Aug. 23 that it has teamed up with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an advocacy group, to create a simple tool for users to assess if they may be depressed. Now, when people in the US search for "clinical depression" on their phones, the typical "knowledge panel"—a container that displays company-vetted information on Google's search results page—will come with an option to take a quiz that can assess the severity of symptoms. (Google says the quiz results will not be seen by anyone but the quiz-taker.)…

[My emphasis] Some estimates have suggested that patients will wait as long as eight years from when they start feeling bad to when they see a doctor. It's hard to say why this is, but some of the thinking is that people don't believe their symptoms are real. Rather than an illness caused by a neurological chemical imbalance, they see depressive symptoms as a "funk." Ideally, this quiz will validate people's symptoms when they search for "clinical depression"—provided they already suspect they may be depressed…

Read full article.

I feel this is a mixed bag:

Good: More folks may seek help for treatable conditions.
Bad: Reliance on Big Technology for intimately personal matters.
Good: Anonymously participating in such efforts can be beneficial and will ultimately aid research.
Bad: Folks may believe a smartphone app is equivalent to a clinical diagnosis.
Mixed: The PHQ-9 inventory itself (and its ilk).

Although supported by clinical research, I believe inventories like the PHQ-9 are not as helpful for diagnosing clients who have already been suffering for a long while (note my emphasis above). Such tests are better at identifying NEWER cases of depression (etc.). See, if someone has been soldiering on for years under a "life just sucks" perspective, questions like: "Do you have little interest or pleasure in doing things" don't have the same impact. "Compared to what" is the obvious, internal response.

If you're a young adult (let's say), just emerging from a childhood of "little interest or pleasure", that's going to feel like the norm (for you). And you may respond: "No, I'm just as interested and pleased as ever". The test itself may measure relative to the population mean but the answers are totally subjective.

See? If you are recently feeling disinterested then the inventory will pick up on that (which is a good thing); these kinds of noticeable changes raise red flags. But if you've always felt this way, then what?

As someone who has suffered (and generally recovered) from dysthymic depression, I have noticed this "new case" bias in various tests and treatments. Sure, if your life is good then suddenly you can't get out of bed, that's obvious. Indeed, some of these clinical inventories begin with (something like): "In the last six months…" They're looking for recent changes in mood, thinking, and behaviors; hoping to offer quality-of-life interventions (often pharmaceuticals). But if you've always felt this way, such interventions probably won't produce a dramatic turnaround.

I have previously said: "Some people are naturally happy; the rest of us have to work at it". I want you to know that it's definitely worth the effort. It's not easy changing one's thought patterns and behaviors, but a lot of "littles" eventually result in something big. And I'm happy to talk about it.

This Google "tool" has potential to help some folks, so I'm generally okay with it; so long as you don't believe that a better life is just a quick-search away.
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4 Comments On This Entry

Quote

In an effort to encourage more patients to seek treatment sooner, Google announced Aug. 23 that it has teamed up with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an advocacy group, to create a simple tool for users to assess if they may be depressed. Now, when people in the US search for "clinical depression" on their phones, the typical "knowledge panel"—a container that displays company-vetted information on Google's search results page—will come with an option to take a quiz that can assess the severity of symptoms. (Google says the quiz results will not be seen by anyone but the quiz-taker.)…



:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Lemme get this straight: Google, whose own Privacy Policy is essentially the cyber equivalent of a rectal exam / pelvic exam, has teamed up with an organization that is little more than a front for Big Pharma, and they pinky-swear not to misuse my data???

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

As a part-time volunteer counselor in my church organization, I've heard of NAMI. They like to call themselves "the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization" Grass roots, my ass. They're astro-turfing for Big Pharma.

PsychCentral: NAMI: Nearly 75 Percent of Donations from Pharma by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

CBS News: Pfizer Turned NAMI Into "Trojan Horse" to Push Geodon Off-Label to Kids, Suit Claims

CounterPunch: Pharma Funded “Patient” Groups Keep Drug Prices Astronomical
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I also see this as a mixed bag. Depression is a big deal, and the most common mental disorder. A hallmark of depression is an inability to seek help, either out of lack of motivation or because the individual doesn't feel like they are worth helping. If this tool can help people identify that they have a treatable problem and go seek that help earlier than that 8 year delay, that's huge.
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Dean Adam Smithee, on 26 August 2017 - 02:29 PM, said:

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Lemme get this straight: Google, whose own Privacy Policy is essentially the cyber equivalent of a rectal exam / pelvic exam, has teamed up with an organization that is little more than a front for Big Pharma, and they pinky-swear not to misuse my data???

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

(snip for brevity)

Yeah, Big Data and Big Pharma; I get it. I parenthetically mentioned that quality-of-life interventions were “often pharmaceuticals”. A significant number of Americans take anti-depressants (8-10%?) and an even larger number have used them at least once in their lifetime. I just read that traces of anti-depressants are turning up in the brains of fish in the Great Lakes. (Folks, dispose of your unused prescription meds properly.) But there’s plenty of data demonstrating that these can (and do) help people, so I’m not going to dismiss pharmaceuticals out of hand.

That you volunteer as a counselor is very commendable. That’s the other side of the mental/behavioral health improvement coin: talk therapy. I think there’s a bias toward the medications because many folks want an easy answer to personal issues. (Listening to Mother’s Little Helper by the Rolling Stones.)

For some folks, talk therapy is as effective (even more effective) than medication alone; but one drawback is that talk therapy can be very hard work. You have to talk about things that you might not want to even think about; and perhaps the hardest part is changing patterns of thinking and behavior.

Counselors like you can be extraordinarily helpful, offering a compassionate ear and other forms of support. But the client needs to do the work; and a lot of people have trouble asking for help.
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lyria, on 30 August 2017 - 03:00 PM, said:

I also see this as a mixed bag. Depression is a big deal, and the most common mental disorder. A hallmark of depression is an inability to seek help, either out of lack of motivation or because the individual doesn't feel like they are worth helping. If this tool can help people identify that they have a treatable problem and go seek that help earlier than that 8 year delay, that's huge.

Agreed; if this app can catalyze folks to understand that they need help (and to seek it), then the potential benefit is immeasurable.
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