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New Software May Be Able to Detect Depression in Blog Posts


Researcher Yair Neuman, associate professor of education at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev, Israel, and his team have developed software that can detect depression in blogs.

The software, developed at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), is capable of identifying language that can indicate the writer's psychological state, which could serve as a screening tool.

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“The software program was designed to find depressive content hidden in language that did not mention the obvious terms like "depression" or suicide. A psychologist knows how to spot various emotional states through intuition. Here, we have a program that does this methodically through the innovative use of 'web intelligence," explains Neuman.

The program can find certain words that express various emotions such as "black" combined with other terms that describe symptoms of depression, such as sleep deprivation or loneliness. The software will be more of an aid to mental health workers and other professionals since "no one can actually replace excellent human judgment," says Neuman.

In the US, there is a big problem of undiagnosed people suffering from depression. The usual screening process is an online questionnaire, which is a self-selective process and if the blogger agrees, they will know whether or not he needs to seek professional counseling.

A panel of four clinical psychologists reviewed the samples and concluded that there was a 78 per cent correlation between the computer's and the panel's findings. Originally conducted for academic purposes, the findings could potentially be used to screen for would-be suicides.