When we’re physically sick, we take off from work so we can rest and get better. But our mental health is an integral part of our overall wellness too. So why isn’t this an excused absence?
The goal is to just have some time to yourself to see a therapist, work on self-care, or just reset and refresh. When we take time for our mental health, we are better suited to perform and be productive. Many people have reported that they lie about “throwing up” or “having a fever” to get time off instead of mentioning depression, anxiety, etc. Bosses can’t say no to physical issues. Bosses can’t invalidate contagion or an employees’ rights to sick days. But what about mental health sick days?
What if you are honest and mention you need a mental health day? Or that you’re struggling? What if they say no?
There are federal laws that protect workers with mental health issues. But it may be easier and less traumatizing to just ask for the day off and not specify a reason. It’s up to you. If you need time off, do what you can to prioritize getting that time. You know your boss and can likely anticipate how they’ll respond. If you think they’ll understand, be non-judgmental, and grant you the time off - tell them the truth. If lying or not disclosing a reason is the only way to get permission, do that!
People are more likely to lie about a physical ailment to get off work, instead of asking for a mental health day. Why?
There is mental health stigma
Individuals don't want to be seen as weak
People fear discrimination or exclusion
Mental health not taken as seriously as an excused absence
Easier to not go into your problems
Fear people won't believe you
Many have been invalidated in the past for mental health issues
How to Ask Your Boss for a Mental Health Day:
Don't over explain or give too many details
Review and follow employment handbook and policies
Prepare what you're going to say
"I'd like to use one of my sick days Friday. Let me know if you have any concerns"
You don't have to disclose all that is going on
Call it a personal issue, health issue, or say you have an appointment
Plan your response to potential rejections
Research state laws, leverage the American Disabilities Act if you need to
It’d be great if one day we can live in a world where mental health is normalized at the same level as physical health. Mental health should be an excused absence. Talking about our feelings and mental health should be encouraged and not lead to lack of trust, discrimination, or lost opportunity. We need to break down the stigma, spread education, and improve policies within organizations to include mental health and provide support.