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Can your smartphone tell you if you have a mood or anxiety disorder? Apparently a new tool called What’s My M3, can. (There’s one for clinicians called M3 Clinician.)

Our only surprise is that we’re not surprised!

One of the developers of the M3 psychiatrist Robert Post, who’s the former chief of biological psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health, told USA Today, that “many of those in need of treatment are seen in a primary care setting, yet their emotional health “never really comes up for discussion” and goes untreated.”

He believes the new tool, which you can test out online, for free, can help individuals and clinicians assess whether mental illness may be an issue. It contains 27 screening questions, which, if answered honestly, could give a generally accurate assessment.

What does it test for? Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and PTSD.

Questions we have: If someone’s test shows that they are likely to have a mental illness, will this lead to them getting help? Will it lead to fear and anxiety? Is it too stressful to take the test alone? What are the percentages of “false positives”? Meanwhile, a couple of our other questions were answered on the What’s My M3 website: 

How does the M3 help ensure appropriate diagnosing?

The M3 is not designed to diagnose illness on its own. Rather, it is meant to elicit symptoms that may indicate a psychiatric illness. Physicians must use the symptoms checklist responses and the risk assessment provided as a basis for formulating a diagnosis and treatment. The M3 website does provide physicians with supplemental information that guides them through this formulation, including relevant follow-up questions to ask. A medication overview chart clearly matches the choices of medications with the symptoms the drugs are intended to treat. There is an outline of each drug’s side effects and potentially harmful drug interactions. Based on this information, doctors can readily determine the most appropriate medication.

How was the M3 Checklist validated?

A research group from the University of North Carolina, headed by Dr. Bradley Gaynes, assisted by Joanne DeVeaugh-Geiss, conducted a study of 650 patients at the UNC Family Practice Clinic. This study confirmed the validity of the M3 Checklist as a diagnostic tool, utilizing the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview as a standard.

It’s interesting to surmise: Perhaps the M3 will actually lead to better assessments. Might people be more likely to answer the questions honestly in this anonymous format, than in the format of a personal assessment or evaluation in the presence of a clinician?

Meanwhile, in person assessments and detailed evaluations are absolute requirements before beginning any therapy or treatment for mental health or addiction. In fact, they are your right as a client or patient.

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Photo: MOB:5 3, P900 by Digi