european psychiatric association

1st EPA Online Talks With Experts

The first session of  “Online Talks with Experts”, organised in collaboration between the Early Career Psychiatrists Committee and the Committee on Ethical Issues, took place on 15 February 2022 on the topic “Digital Threats: new media and the assault on knowledge.”

The session, attended by 28 participants from different countries, took place on Zoom and was chaired by Dr Egor Chumakov, member of the Early Career Psychiatrists Committee and chair of the Task Force on Communication and Publications.

The invited speaker was Dr Jan Wise, member of the EPA Board and the EPA Committees on Education and on Ethical Issues, as well as being a member of the British Medical Association Ethics Committee. Jan Wise opened the presentation with an overview on the impact of misinformation and fake news and how to deal with propaganda. Some examples of current global issues were cited along to argue on how dangerous digital medias can be for healthcare. At the end of the presentation, some recommendations were advised on how to know if a source is reliable by highlighting the importance of the active role of health organizations and health bodies.

At the end of the presentation, participants had the opportunity to ask open questions and have instructive exchanges. The reflective questions were related to the qualities of truth in the mental health care, the importance of the legislation around mental health, and the role of the psychiatry on patients.

Some examples of questions asked during the session:

  • What do you think the truth is? What if the truth is subjective? How can we determine which truth is objective by the biases of different opinions?
  • Do you think there are some situations when we can’t trust the information from a patient?
  • How can health professionals help a patient without crossing the line?
  • Do you think that empathy is essential to digital psychiatry? Is it possible to be a psychiatrist without empathy?

Jan Wise emphasized the place of mental health professionals and the importance of medical approaches that can have an impact on the career of a psychiatrist: “We will never run out of patients, but we will run out of doctors”, he said to aware that psychiatrists may compromise their role by ‘crossing the line’ in treating a patient.

When asked about how to determine the accuracy of a patient’s symptoms, Dr Wise said that “Just because something doesn’t happen, doesn’t mean it’s not real for them”, to point out that a patient exaggerating its symptoms is a recurrent fact, but the role of the psychiatrist “is take the steps with them”. On the role of empathy in psychiatry, he attested that “Doing things right doesn’t require empathy, being a leader does”, to insist on the impact of psychiatrists on mental health care.

By the end of the session, Jan Wise encouraged early career psychiatrists to continue reflecting on these questions today to help develop the psychiatry tomorrow.