Birmingham residents are making 27,620 searches around ‘depression’ every month.
These findings offer an insight into the mental health of the nation, following Office for National Statistics’ figures which show that more than 15 million working days per year are lost in sickness absence to stress, depression and anxiety.
In an average month during 2014, 49,500 searches were made by people wanting to take a test to see whether they were depressed.
Over the last two years, January has experienced a spike in search volumes across all three search terms – ‘stress’, ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’. 2014’s statistics saw a significant increase in search volumes across ‘depression’ and ‘stress’ through October, November and December. Based on this recent upward trend, we forecast that January 2015 will see 1,473,059 searches around ‘depression’, an 11% increase from last year.
Dr Jeanette Downie, Deputy Medical Director and Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Glasgow said that the number of people searching for mental health diagnoses online highlighted, in part, the stigma around mental health, which leads people to turn to the internet rather than seek confidential, personalised face-to-face help from an expert.
“The continued stigma around mental health encourages people to use the non-judgemental search bar of Google. I see some highly successful people who are terrified of others finding out that they are depressed or stressed, and feel they have absolutely ‘failed’ by being ill. They often wait until they are really unwell before they come to the Priory for help.”
She said there was a fear of publicly acknowledging a mental health problem, especially in the workplace, yet “people simply wouldn’t feel the same concern when telling friends or colleagues about a physical illness, like a heart condition”.
Dr Downie added that by using the internet to self-diagnose an illness, people risked causing themselves unnecessary worry by misdiagnosing themselves, and then potentially treating themselves wrongly, thanks to information they had found online.
Priory Group, the largest independent provider of mental healthcare in the UK, recently opened a Wellbeing Centre in the City of London for people seeking help for mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and stress. It hopes to open similar clinics across the UK for those wanting to access help.
The Wellbeing Centre offers expert support on an out-patient basis to help people manage their mental well-being.