According to a WHO Health and Work Performance Questionnaire that assesses sick days, depression was cited as the number one reason for absenteeism on the job. And a February 2010 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter found that depression and anxiety were among the top five reasons for absenteeism.
Americans are clearly suffering. According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, about 26% of American adults aged 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.
Wouldn't it be great if America's workers could take time off to rest, manage their stress, or even see a mental health professional? I am proposing that businesses should institute two or three paid "mental health days" a year as part of their employee benefits package.
Over and over, we psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals hear people say: "I can't take another day of work," or "I'll go crazy if I have to return to work tomorrow." The list of remarks illustrating the sense of dread that many people feel about their workplaces could go on and on.
People certainly don't want to quit their jobs -- especially in these uncertain economic times. But some people do opt to use sick days when they need a break from the stress. Why not formalize such an action? After all, the ability to take a sick day because of extreme anxiety or stress is just as important as being able to do so because of a severe upper respiratory infection.