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First online South Africa-focused depression screening tool under development
The first validated online depression screening tool suitable to the South African context is under development.
The tool adapts the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD-R) to the South African context to make it more understandable for locals.
It also aims to give people in South Africa a private way to screen for depression. This can help them move towards seeking treatment.
The platform, created by WITS University psychology researcher Tasneem Hassem and WITS Professor Sumaya Laher, has received R100 000 in seed funding from WITS Enterprise to support the final stage of development. Currently, the tool is moving towards its commercialisation stage.
Hassem is a registered psychologist currently pursuing her PhD. She says her research shows that a tool like this can help South Africans learn about depression and find help.
“Unfortunately, low awareness of the symptoms of depression means that many people do not know when they are depressed,” Hassem notes.
“During our research and through interviews with stakeholders, we determined that an online screening tool would help raise awareness of depression, reduce the stigma and facilitate quality conversations between people and health professionals.”
The pandemic has further increased the need for locals to access reliable screening tools. In addition, there’s a need to bypass the stigma of seeking mental healthcare.
Meanwhile, Professor Laher’s research in 2019 found that no screening tools available online were specifically developed for or adapted for the local context.
A depression screening tool developed specifically for South Africa
As such, they have developed Depression Screening South Africa.
The pair decided to specially develop the screening tool for locals. It takes into account the fact that most locals do not speak English as a home language.
It also takes into account the challenges in access to and awareness around mental healthcare.
“Our tool is specifically adapted to capture the unique depression symptoms experienced by South African individuals,” Hassem notes.
“The user receives instant, downloadable feedback that provides resources for seeking treatment or care and can be used in the comfort of one’s home, on any smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.”
Currently, the platform includes information about depression, contact information for helplines, and the screening tool.
However, it is still under development as it prepares to go to market.
“I hope that this tool will benefit the South African community and help raise awareness about mental healthcare and wellbeing,” Hassem notes.
Hassem, Laher, and their team will pilot the tool to a larger and more representative sample of the population during its next stage.
They plan to further develop and refine the site before its official launch.
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