Madalyn Parker, a web developer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, emailed her colleagues to say she’d be using two sick days to focus on her mental health. The company’s CEO, Ben Congleton, responded by thanking her for helping “cut through the stigma of mental health.”
If you had a cold, you might decide to power through your workday. But if you had the flu, you’d likely need to stay home and rest.
And no one would call you weak for getting the flu. In fact, your co-workers would likely thank you for not coming into the office when you’re sick.
Mental health rarely gets the same respect. Instead, people are told to “get over it” when they’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.
But mental health is part of your overall health. If you don’t proactively address your mental health, you won’t be able to perform at your best.
As a psychotherapist, I’ve helped many people determine whether they were mentally healthy enough to do their job. And much of it depends on the mental health issue you’re grappling with and what kind of work you do.
I once worked with a bus driver who was struggling with depression. She struggled to maintain her concentration and would sometimes grow forgetful. It was clearly a safety concern and she needed more than one mental health day—she needed a leave of absence to work on herself.
Fortunately, most people in need of a mental health day aren’t in such a dire condition. Instead, they’re struggling to handle stress, regulate their thoughts, or manage their emotions. And a day or two away from the office might give them an opportunity to practice the self-care they need to get back on track.
Here are a few times when you might decide you need a mental health:
It would be wonderful if all employers supported employee’s efforts to take care of their mental health in the same way Congleton did. But clearly, the tweet went viral because most employers wouldn’t have had the same reaction.
That’s unfortunate because workplace mental health is important not to just to individuals, but to the entire workforce.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that only 17 percent of the U.S. population is functioning at optimal mental health. And one in five people experience a diagnosable mental health condition at any given time.
The Center for Prevention and Health estimates mental illness and substance abuse issues cost employers up to $105 billion annually. Reduced productivity, absenteeism, and increased healthcare costs are just a few of the ways mental health issues cost employers money.
Fortunately, conversations like the one sparked by this tweet can be key to reducing the stigma that surrounds mental health. Clearly, people aren’t either mentally healthy or mentally ill.
Mental health is a continuum and likely, we all have room for improvement. Taking a mental health day every once in a while could help you build mental strength and improve your mental health.
Want to know how to give up the bad habits that rob you of mental strength? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.