Calendar Psychiatry and a Hoped for International Day of Thanksgiving

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How do specific calendar days impact mental health?

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PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

We just passed the annual Thanksgiving Day in the United States. In anticipation of it, I did a video of gratitude, posted the day before, for those who helped my career get off the ground positively. One of my colleagues quickly recognized the connection.

Perhaps others of you also have noticed that I provide extra coverage to holidays, anniversaries, and personal days of meaning, including triggering traumatic ones. Why? I think such days lead to heightened psychological sensitivity and emotional connection. I have come to think that appreciating the power of these days can be summarized in the conception of “calendar psychiatry.”

Take another recent example where the concept came to me. It was last July 4th, our annual day of Independence for the United States. In my July 6th, 2023, column, “From Highland Park to Fireworks in the Dark, This Was a Record-Setting July Fourth,” I found out that the Fourth of July accounted for the most mass shootings over any other calendar day. Was that due to the influence of heat for increased violence? Is it the psychological impact of fireworks, which may trigger lightning, gunfire, and violent explosions? Does it go all the way back to the development of our country, where violence had been done to us and by us? Certainly, as we hear in the current Mideast war, modern psychiatry plays a crucial role in the recovery from all the current and historical traumas.

In December, we have other prominent days in the calendar psychology, going from Hanukah to Christmas to New Year’s Eve. For Jews, Hanukah celebrates the return of lightness over darkness, in fighting both the internal conflicts of a people and the external oppression.Christmas, of course, is a major Christian-based holiday of goodwill and gifting. New Year’s Eve and day often stimulates resolutions for improvement over the coming year.

In my clinical work, I tried to keep track of what days were especially important to each patient. That helped us both examine such emotionally charged historical and ongoing issues. Having a way to be reminded of these days can counter any psychologically painful reasons to forget.

As part of our own monitoring of countertransference issues, which can compromise patient care, we may need to survey important calendar days. Perhaps that is something worthy of a professional resolution for 2024. Recognize and circle those days on your calendar.

Will there be any memorable day that will come out of the current Mideast war? While October 7th, the day of invasion of Israel may turn out to represent the beginning of a war, if the hostage and prison exchange, along with the surrounding ceasefire, works in Gaza and somehow leads to sustained peace and mutual celebrations, perhaps November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving in the US, will become a day for which to be thankful. Not to forget Ukraine and other global conflicts, given all the countries involved directly and indirectly, will it ever be possible to have an International Day of Thanksgiving?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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