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Technology and Psychopathology

Erick Messias, MD, MPH ’02, PhD ’05

Erick Messias Suicide notes have a long history in psychiatry and over the last few years new technologies have been incorporated into this sad tradition.

When I was a resident in Baltimore in the 90s, one of our patients sent a suicide note via fax. That fax led us to call the police to check on the person’s home and she was taken to the emergency room and from there to a stay at a psych unit. She did well and I continued to follow her throughout my psychiatry residency.

More recently, when I was on faculty at the Medical College of Georgia, a patient with depression made a suicide attempt and posted her note on Twitter. From Twitter, the note migrated to her Facebook page where her mother took notice and had her brought to the emergency room. The patient was promptly admitted to our psychiatry inpatient unit and did well.

These emerging technologies are meant to provide a means of instant communication and people will use them for ways we cannot even start to imagine. We just need to be ready, as persons and as professionals, to hear what they have to say, whether or not it’s over 120 characters.

Erick Messias is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, AR.

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