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Getting Googled by Your Doctor

ne day not long ago, police forcibly brought a man to the hospital after he updated his profile picture on Facebook. He was in his late 20s and had a long history of suicide attempts, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and a close relationship with his mental-healthcare team, which typically consists of physicians, nurses, and social workers. On the day of the incident, the team leader—the doctor who makes medical treatment decisions—reportedly stumbled on his Facebook page by accident. Since she had visited it several months earlier to keep tabs on him, his name autofilled the search box when she typed the first name of her friend, the same as the client’s. It brought up his profile picture, and it was concerning: He was holding what looked like a gun pressed to his head. The team leader thought he’d already gone through with it—other photos showed suicide letters

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