Track your depression with your iPhone

Dr. Harvey Castro has created a depression monitoring application for Apple’s iPod touch and iPhone that he hopes will make a difference in many people’s lives. Many things trigger depression. “When I was in the ER, I had seen a lot of psychiatric patients,” Castro said. “I saw many cases where they died or they tried to harm themselves. I thought that if they had gotten help earlier, there would have been a different outcome. I started wondering if putting a depression scale on an iPod would help these patients.”

Castro, an emergency medicine physician at Las Colinas Medical Center, developed the application with questions from different screening tests: the Zung Depression Test, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the Geriatric Depression Scale. Castro’s application also includes the newly created scale for children depression, along with a scale created by a Canadian doctor, who gave Castro permission to use it.

During the questionnaire, users are asked to rank the frequency on a variety of subjects they experience. Those range from health symptoms, such as headaches, to emotional urges, such as how often someone blames themselves when something goes wrong. The scores are then calculated, and the application tracks the user’s scores and graphs the results. Those results can then be emailed to the user’s primary care doctor, OB/GYN doctor or health care provider, which Castro said is key for the program since it was never intended to replace patient-doctor interaction. “The topic is not something that most people are comfortable talking with their doctor about,” Castro said. “And, nowadays, doctors don’t spend an hour with a patient. But now, you bring the results of these questionnaires to the doctor and then say, ‘What do you think?’”

Other features of Sad Scale include a resource button that takes users to helpful sites for facilities across the country. All updates are free, and there is a one-time charge of 99 cents to download the application. So far, the application has been successful, Castro said. While Sad Scale is only available in English, Castro said it has been purchased across the globe, including Canada, Japan, Australia and South America.

The National Organization for Suicide has posted a link to the application on its Web site. Castro said he awaiting approval from Apple for an application he designed called Stress Index, which measures a person’s stress level based on a questionnaire. Like Sad Scale, the results can be sent to the doctor to be used as a starting point on dealing with stress. With these applications available on the iPod and iPhone Touch, Castro said anyone around the world will have some help at their fingertips. “There are 40 million iPhones and iPod touches on the market right now,” Castro said. “By the end of the summer, they will be sold in 80 countries..”

For information on any of these applications, go to