Google is offering American users a screening test for depression, which pops up when you search 'depression' or 'clinical depression'.
The concept has split academics and those in mental health services around the world.
Victoria University psychology professor Marc Wilson says while it's not a bad idea in principle, there are risks of misdiagnosis and oversimplifying a complex issue.
Google's depression test is based on the PHQ-9 – a simple user-friendly test which anyone can do online.
THe PHQ-9 test asks if you've experienced in the last two weeks both the cognitive elements of depression – how you think about yourself and the world around you, and behavioural elements – such as whether you're getting too little or too much sleep and have stopped enjoying the things you usually enjoy.
The test is about 80% accurate at diagnosing depression, but there's some concern about whether it's very good at determining between severe and moderate cases, Wilson says.
Also, some people will score as depressed on the PHQ-9 when they aren't.
"For example, at the moment there are a lot of students studying for exams. They're going to be having trouble sleeping, they're going to be feeling tired the next day – not because they're depressed, but because there are things going on in their lives causing stress."
No matter how you score, you'll need confirmation to confirm the diagnosis face to face with a professional, which brings up the question of whether New Zealand has the mental health resources to meet the potential demand, he says.
"When John Kirwan went on television and said 'It's okay for men to admit that they feel depressed' a lot of men felt validated and went to visit their GPs only to find we don't have as many resources available as, potentially, we need to manage an influx of people."
If you've been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above for four or more weeks, see your GP, Wilson says.
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