We are writing with regard to the title and image that The Walrus chose to accompany the excerpt from our book, How Can I Help? A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist (“Thinner,” May). The excerpt focuses on the experience of Kirsten Halpin, who has struggled with anorexia nervosa for over two decades. With Kirsten’s assistance, we attempted to convey the complexity of an illness that has frequently been minimized in the media. It is far more complicated than simply being thin: everincreasing evidence suggests that this serious psychiatric illness has its roots in genetics and neurobiology, and their intersections with psychology, environment, and culture. We also hoped to illustrate the challenges of maintaining a therapeutic relationship in the face of a potentially life-threatening illness. The three of us felt that Kirsten and David’s former doctor patient relationship was a powerful example.
However, the title and the accompanying image of a passive woman contrasts sharply with the message we convey in the excerpt: the importance of persistence, hope, and relationships. Kirsten is someone who has spent much of her adult life fighting her illness and volunteering to help others dealing with psychiatric illness. She has built a life and is a friend and mentor to many, despite the challenges of her condition. She is living, not dying.
David Goldbloom Pier Bryden Kirsten Halpin Toronto, ON