It’s always a busy time in a hospital just before any weekends, let alone the long weekends or the Thanksgiving long weekend where most people want to be able to return homes and spend this time with their loved ones and families.

But most people don’t realize that hospital admissions sometimes spike after these long weekends or family oriented holidays in the acute mental health unit.

While it is a time to bring families together to enjoy each others companies, it can also be a time of stress – as any memories related to their families may bring up more stress than joy, especially if their upbringing was not pleasant, associated with trauma or other childhood abuse. Yet at other times, the lack of family to see at this time may trigger depression.

Recently, numerous reports and studies have been released  describing the possible association between isolation and serious health concerns in the elderly. These health concerns can range from depression and dementia to hypertension and myocardial infarction.

Do we really need a study to demonstrate isolation is bad for health?

As we invest more funding in mental health, I can’t help but think we need more resources to support families, teach them how to support each other, learn how to function as family and build strong and healthy relationships. This may differ in different cultures but the goal is to improve the health of all individuals living within a single unit of a family structure – that they all feel supported and happy.

After all, a family structure is a mini unit of our society and many mental health issues may begin at the home of a dysfunctional family.  Some individuals learn to cope better than others. Others who struggle to cope are at higher risk of mental health diseases.

There are many medications used in mental health but as a pharmacist, I am the first to say that they should not be first line treatment without exploring other options, don’t offer a holistic solution and often have many unwanted side effects.

There are also many emerging psychotherapy such as cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy and problem solving therapy that may offer more promising results. Yet they are not widely available and are perhaps costly to offer to the public.  What about incorporating some of these strategies in our education for the next generation?

As we come together to celebrate the family reunion, it is an opportunity to foster stronger bonds within our family structure. And if we know someone who’s family is not close by to spend time with, is there a way to reach out to offer our support such as donating or volunteering at a food bank?

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and families!