Facts, Truth, and Trust in Journalism and Psychiatry


In psychiatry, as in journalism, truth, facts, and trust go hand in hand.

Looking for truth



We must wonder why there has been so little media coverage on a major global award. If you have not heard, Filipino journalist Maria Ressa was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, December 10th, along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.

The last journalist to win this prize was Carl von Ossietzky in 1935, but he could not receive it in-person because he was in a Nazi concentration camp.

In her acceptance speech, Ressa focused on the dangers—including imprisonment and death—that she and fellow journalists face in so many countries around the world. Nevertheless, to continue to report the truth, she created the startup Rippler 10 years ago. You may recall, too, that she was designated as Time’s Person of the Year in 2018; we will cover this year’s winners tomorrow.

The new journalistic gatekeeper, she maintains, is technology, which has the power to present the truth. With the help of psychology, however, it can use Pavlovian behavior modification to potentially use and manipulate the user, as authoritarians, dictators, and businesses have discovered. The psychological bone, it seems, are the popular social media sites. Disinformation, she conveys, is taking a particular toll on the mental health of women.

She presents a simple process. Without facts, how can you have truth? Without apparent truth, no trust. Without trust, no shared reality to address such global existential problems as climate change and viral pandemics.

As she summarizes: “It is facts, truth, and trust.” Is that not true of our work in psychiatry, too? We know how hard it is to build therapeutic alliances based on trust, where the patient will trust the clinician and tell the facts as they know them. Hiding suicidality, for example, is all too common. Actually, in psychiatry, probably the reverse order fits better: trust, truth, and facts. It takes trust and truth to learn the facts, which may have been hidden by trauma, depression, anxiety, or other memory factors.

Tessa closes her speech with this question: “What are you willing to sacrifice for the truth?”

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

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