As Thanksgiving Day approaches, it may be difficult (if not impossible) to count your blessings when your life has been turned upside down by a serious mental illness in the family. We often find ourselves complaining – about gaps in the system, health care staff who don’t seem to care, inadequate medication with horrible side effects, and the general unfairness of it all. Yet even in the most horrible situations, we can usually find someone who goes out of their way to help.

While many – if not all – of our complaints about the “system” may be justified, it’s important to remember that health care workers are people too – people dealing with their own problems that we know nothing about. They’re also dealing with limitations imposed on them by a bureaucracy and medical-legal system that seems stacked against the very people they want to help. They’re often overworked and may have their own frustrations but are too professional to share them.

Yet despite everything, they continue to serve those in their care to the best of their abilities. Some even go out of their way to provide extra help however they can – cheerfully greeting your family, taking a few minutes to explain what you should expect, offering a coffee or glass of water or lending an ear to hear you out… these little gestures that mean so much to a family in crisis.

If you’ve encountered one of these shining stars while your loved one was in hospital or community care, it’s never a bad idea to offer a small token of gratitude. A hospital team will always appreciate a small box of chocolates, or even just a greeting card with a genuine expression of thanks. It could boost their spirits after a difficult shift.

You can offer a more formal act of appreciation by leaving a compliment on Alberta Health Service’s feedback form. Let them know who went out of their way to help, and how much it meant to you. Even if you only know the first name (or even if you don’t), mention the facility, department and date and time period and they’ll be able to check personnel records so the right person gets acknowledged. The unfortunate reality is that most feedback they receive is in the form of complaints – so a compliment will be a welcome change.

We need to recognize those who do great work and go the extra mile. We can’t just complain; we need to acknowledge the exemplary actions we want to see. As a side benefit, it may also lift your own spirits.