Google is taking major steps in helping diagnose those who deal with depression. This fall, the company partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to release a new mobile feature that will offer a depression screening questionnaire for users searching terms related to depression. The questionnaire, clinically referred to as the PHQ-9, is a private self-assessment tool that will provide users with the severity of his or her depression and help users determine whether or not they should seek professional, medical help based on their results.
This new feature comes at a time when mental health is a crucial topic. According to NAMI, about one in five Americans experience an episode in their lifetime, but only 50 percent of people who have depression actually get treatment. Mary Giliberti, CEO of NAMI, hopes that by making this information available on Google, “more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life.”
This mental health crisis is especially trying for young girls. In a survey carried out by Edelman Intelligence, for the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report, it was revealed that only 46 percent of girls globally possess high body esteem. The report also revealed that “girls with low body esteem are more likely to succumb to beauty and appearance pressures, withdraw from fundamental life-building activities and fail to reach their potential.” This dissatisfaction can eventually lead to deterioration of mental health and depression.
As depression rates continue to increase, celebrities and public figures have used their platforms to increase awareness and offer advice on how to help alleviate stress and increase self-esteem. Supermodel and body activist Ashley Graham has shaken up the fashion industry by actively promoting body confidence. She has shared stories about feeling insecure about her body in the past, her apprehension stemming from society’s impossible standards of beauty. In a recent interview with ELLE UK, Ashley talks about how size doesn’t matter as long as you take care of your body, highlighting health as the most important takeaway. “Strong is more than just physical. I feel like having a strong mind and strong soul and strong impact on what you are doing in the world is very important.” As a role model for young girls who struggle to see themselves reflected in industry standards, she preaches defiance in the face of adversity and living one’s life without apology.
Children’s books publisher Barefoot Books is focused on a younger demographic with their new release, Mindful Kids, an activity deck that encourages families to implement mindfulness into their daily routines. The activities help children learn how to manage emotions while also developing empathy and self-awareness. All of these factors play a part in how one can stay mindful and maintain mental health in their everyday lives. In fact, the American Psychological Association states that practicing mindfulness can actually prevent depression and gives those dealing with depression a greater sense of self-efficacy.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than men, often due to social stresses such as juggling multiple roles and being bombarded with unrealistic images of beauty on social media. Actress and playwright Tina Lifford is a mental health warrior and through her Inner Fitness Project, she works with women to combat these stresses by teaching them skills and strategies for navigating self-doubt, disappointments, and challenges in their lives. Tina provides a direct way for women to work towards strengthening their mental health through her different workshops.
Another non-traditional method for addressing personal issues before they morph into mental health issues is playing a thought-provoking new board game called SPARKED. The game encourages women to have meaningful, soulful conversations that provide clarity and promotes peace of mind. The game begins by spinning the spinner and choosing a card from one of the eight categories: love, generosity, gratitude, inspiration, adventure, happiness, opportunity and passion. Each card features gripping questions like, “If you had a superpower, how would you enrich the world?” or to “Name someone who brightens your life and why?” Each question provides an outlet for women to talk about their feelings, which can be therapeutic and lead to more positive mental health outlooks.
Over the last few years, there has been an explosion of interest from tech companies to focus in on mental health. In an interview with Fortune, the director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) Dr. Thomas Insel said, “There’s a whole new opportunity here in mental health not only with diagnosis but with apps and other interventions on devices to close the loop with disease management…Mental health is the next frontier.”
As Google takes its first steps, it will pave the way for other companies to invent better and more efficient ways to improve mental health through different high-tech that promotes high-touch results.