Depression detection software?

. Saturday, June 26

woman-online-unhappyDepression is the most common mental illness that, left untreated, can lead to more complex conditions such as anxiety disorders and schizophrenia, and suicide. A person suffering depression may not recognize their state of mind or seek treatment, though those around them will notice the changes in behaviors such eating, sleeping, mood and the lack of participation in what used to be enjoyable activities. Familiar with the symptoms of depression or not, recognition of the illness comes more from observation of patterns of behavior, affect and demeanor than formal training or textbook definitions.

Professor Yair Neuman of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, noted that depression remains a condition that is largely undiagnosed and created software he calls “Pedisis” that scans blogs for word patterns associated with depression. The initial test of 17,000 blogs returned a 78 percent rate of agreement with a panel of psychologists who reviewed the software’s returned data.

Though there are many online tests available, Neuman asserts that they are often unused. He believes that nothing can replace human intuition and interaction, and that Pedisis will be a valuable screening tool: “If implemented on a widespread basis, a screening process might increase the user’s awareness of his or her condition, and provide recommendations.  If the blogger agrees, he or she could seek professional help.”

However, and as it is with most innovations, there is a downside to a tool that was designed and created to be beneficial in academia:

"The downside is that such software could be used to screen job applicants -- which would really give eliminated bloggers something to be depressed about,” said Mike Elgan of Userology.

As more and more personal information is shared online through social networking of all variations, the software could be used by insurance companies, social service agencies and law enforcement as well, resulting in the refusal of medical coverage, claims awards, guardianship and adoptions and evidential intent.

Big Brother just grew some!