Screening Facebook Posts for Symptoms of Depression

Up to 30% of young people may post Facebook status updates that meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for a symptom of depression, according to research conducted at the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison).

“You can identify adolescents and young adults on Facebook who are showing signs of being at risk, who would benefit from a clinical visit for screening,” said principal study investigator and professor of pediatrics Megan Moreno. For colleges and universities, the question is whether and how to monitor Facebook updates – and when to intervene. At some universities, such as UW-Madison, resident advisors are using Facebook to look out for students’ well-being.

“If they say something alarming on Facebook, they know it’s public and they want someone to respond,” said Lilly Cao, who served as a UW-Madison house fellow. At Cornell University, counselors, residence advisors and police meet weekly to discuss students who may be at risk. Distressing Facebook comments can form part of the discussion, but it’s important to proceed cautiously, according to Gregory Eels, director of Cornell’s counseling and psychological services.

“Sometimes [students are] just letting off steam,” said Eels.    

Read the full report.

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