“Better help for eating disorders” (12/1) provided an important service to the Yale community by raising awareness of a critical student health issue, but the authors misstated University resources presently available to address the problem. As coordinator of Safety Net, a monthly meeting of representatives from Mental Health and Counseling, Student Medicine, the Yale Police Department, leaders of student organizations and administrators concerned with health and safety on campus, I write to supplement the previously supplied information.
The authors lament the recent closing of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, but since graduate and undergraduate students were often assigned there for training, student patients sometimes felt it was not confidential or anonymous. Students needing medication were also unable to obtain it through the Center. In its stead, Mental Health and Counseling is a free student resource, staffed by professionals with training in eating disorders. Counselors are available to meet with individuals or groups of students; Mental Health and Counseling works closely with Student Medicine when medical attention is required. An additional nutritionist was hired at the end of the academic year 2007-’08 to accommodate student demand.
The authors argue there is a need to develop a student-run organization on campus with the aim of raising awareness of eating concerns. Eating Concerns Hotline and Outreach has been unable to staff a hot line since many of its members graduated, but ECHO still exists as an educational and outreach resource seeking to raise awareness of eating concerns on campus. The authors further criticize Walden Peer Counseling for not having provided “concrete suggestions” to help a friend. But Walden is an anonymous and confidential peer counseling service; counselors are available to listen and talk every day. Because anyone can call to talk about anything, undergraduate student counselors are trained in non-directive, non-judgmental counseling. Counselors are additionally trained in how to respond to callers with eating concerns of their own or for their friends. Counselors help callers to work through their own problems and to find their own solutions, but do not give advice or “concrete suggestions.” It would have been inappropriate to provide any sort of advice beyond referral to further resources to a friend of student in need of counseling. Walden has been and remains an important resource — currently endorsed by the Yale College Dean’s Office — for over 30 years.
Monday’s column was right to raise the issue of eating disorder resources on campus, but there are many such resources available to students already. The authors’ apparent lack of knowledge of those resources perhaps unwittingly justifies their suggestion for improvements to the Yale University Health Services Web site.
The writer is a junior in Pierson College .