The Walrus - - LETTERS -

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

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