Emory’s New Calculator Measures Factors For Mental Illness

A new online tool could help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

That’s according to researchers at Emory University, who helped develop the first online calculator that assesses a patient’s risk of developing psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia.

Emory psychologist Elaine Walker says similar tools have been used for years by medical professionals to assess factors related to conditions like strokes.

“We think it’s going to move us in toward thinking about risk factors for mental illness in the same way we think about risk factors for other illnesses,” Walker says. “So our goal is to reduce those factors, just like we try to reduce risk for heart disease and cancer.”

The risk calculator is based on the largest-ever study by the National Institute of Mental Health on adolescents at risk for psychotic disorders.

Walker says the tool allows for more consistency in determining who’s at risk for psychotic illness and allows clinicians to detect problem-cases earlier.

This is especially important, she says, because psychotic disorders often develop during adolescence, interfering with adult development.

Two out of every 100 people will develop a psychotic disorder at some point in their lives.