Most people have taken at least one mental health day in their lives — however, they're usually disguised as a "sick day" or a "family emergency." Nobody wants to tell their boss that they really just need a day to themselves to relax and recuperate.
I know I always excuses like that — one time I actually told my boss that my mom's appendix burst and that I needed to accompany her to the hospital. It wasn't necessarily a lie — she did get her appendix out, just a couple months beforehand.
So why is mental health so stigmatized?
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services approximated that only 17% of people in the United States are operating at optimal mental health. Furthermore, one in five people live with a diagnosable mental illness.
Still, many people believe mental illness isn't real, which is understandable since you can't really see it. I've had people tell me to "get over it" or to "not think about it." However, mental illnesses manifests the way any other sickness would — you can't perform at your best when it's here.
Mental health is basically the same as physical health — it comes from your brain, which is still a part of your body. Mental health is the same as getting the flu or breaking your arm — no one should think you're weak for staying home.
When should I take a mental health day?
If you've been diagnosed with depression or anxiety — like me — take a day off whenever you feel that your medication isn't doing its job or if you feel particularly low that day. Get some help from family, friends or your therapist on your off day and just relax.
If you're mainly struggling to handle stress, emotions or thoughts, a day or two without work or school may do the job. You can relax the entire day or you could do something that's been on your mind for a big — like paying bills, pampering yourself or talking to someone.
Other red flags that indicate you should take a mental health day are exhaustion and insomnia, spouts of anxiety, lack of focus, depression, irritability, frequent physical ailments, sluggishness and feeling left out.
Why are so many people reluctant to take a mental health day?
Well, one example is hoarding sick days — I know I only have a limited number of days off so why waste it on something so trivial? Plot twist, mental health isn't trivial! It could lead to a lot of problems down the road.
Another instance is being seen as weak or not being able to do their job. But this isn't true — unless you also think the other 43.8 million adults in the United States who deal with mental illness are also inadequate.
Only 40% of those adults got help for their illnesses — destigmatizing mental health and mental illnesses will allow others to feel safe and comfortable in asking for mental health days and professional help.
One good story that's come out of this continuing mental health saga is one surrounding Madalyn Parker — a web developer in Michigan who recently emailed her boss and colleagues in regards to her taking two mental health days.
When the CEO responds to your out of the office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your… https://t.co/KLfhpXNBfB— madalyn (@madalyn)1498854569.0
The CEO of her company completely validated her needs and congratulated her for further destigmatizing mental health — which also prompted more people to post about their stories and requests.
Stories like Parker's let us know that mental health and mental illnesses are completely valid — no one can work at their full potential with any kind of illness so it's important to get treatment and time off for those that are mental or physical.
So when you need a mental health day next time, be sure to specify that to your boss, professor or colleagues — who knows, you might even bring a little more change to your workplace.