Year: 2022 Source: Frontiers in Psychiatry. (2022). 12, 629904. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.629904 SIEC No: 20220451

Background: In China, we have seen dramatic increases in public concern over depression and mental health after the suicide of some famous persons. The objective of this study is to investigate the changes of search-engine query patterns to monitor this phenomenon based on the tragic suicide of a young Chinese pop star, Kimi Qiao.

Methods: The daily search volume for depression was retrieved from both the Baidu Index (BDI) and the Sina MicroBlog Index (SMI). Besides, the daily BDI for suicide, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, common cold, stomach cancer, and liver cancer were collected for comparison. According to the time of Qiao’s suicide, all data were divided into two periods (i.e., Period One from 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2016 while Period Two ranged from 1 October 2016 to 30 September 2017). The paired t-test was used to compare the differences in search volumes between two periods. The Pearson correlation analysis was used to estimate correlations between the BDI and SMI for depression.

Results: The average BDI for depression, BDI for suicide, and SMI for depression in Period Two were significantly higher than in Period One (p < 0.05). There was a strong positive correlation between the BDI and SMI for depression (r = 0.97, p < 0.001). And no significant difference in BDI for other diseases between the two periods was found.

Conclusions: The changes of search-engine query patterns indicated that the celebrity’s suicide might be able to improve the netizens’ concern about depression in China. The study suggests publishing more practical knowledge and advice on depression through the Internet and social media, to improve the public’s mental health literacy and help people to cope with their depressive symptoms appropriately.