Can your phone diagnose depression?

Trey Stewart, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

In the age of technology, smartphones are the ringleaders in the circus of advanced devices. With an app developed by Northwestern University, perhaps your smartphone can play the role of your personal psychiatrist, as well.

Purple Robot is an app that was created with the purpose of attempting to diagnose depression or depression-like behaviors within smartphone users.

While simple in it’s purpose, the steps that are forced to be taken by each user of the app in order to have the app function properly could be considered excessive.

Purple Robot asks for over 25 different permissions before the user is able to work with the app properly, including permission to analyze all of the user’s text messages, record all of the user’s phone calls as well as keep tabs on the exact times the user accessed their smartphone, down to the second.

Freshman of North Greenville University, Hudson Carter, recently downloaded the app to give it a try, but felt very uncomfortable right when he opened it due to the previously mentioned permission requirements.

“I felt like it was tracking me too much. It felt like I had no privacy or anything. Not to mention, it took up a lot of space and drastically drained my battery,” he commented.

The battery issue is one that shouldn’t go without discussion either. While I personally was using this app, I took note of how quickly my battery percentage trickled down as compared to when Purple Robot was not running.

When Purple Robot was not running, my smartphone lost 4 percent of its battery life over a period of 30 minutes, compared to when the app was running, when it lost 7 percent over the same amount of time.

While that may seem like a small price to pay for an app that can do what Purple Robot claims, when it is coupled with the amount of permissions needed along with the fact that there is no guarantee the user will receive perfectly accurate results, leads me to form the opinion that perhaps even in the ever-changing world of technology, some things should be left to professionals, just like they were designed.

If someone is worried that they may be suffering from of slipping into depression of any sort, the best thing to do would be contact a therapist who can truly diagnose what is going on and what may be causing the feelings that are taking place.

Despite what people may think or act like, a smartphone can only do so much, and diagnosing a mental illness doesn’t seem to fall under the numerous abilities these devices have.