Why Mental Health Days Need To Be Taken Seriously

Every workplace has to allow their employees to take sick days. Days that they call into work letting their employers know they're physically sick with the flu or a cold. Most workplaces are understanding of this and don’t question when their employers are sick, they don’t want them coming into work if they’re going to be miserable or get anyone else sick. But what about if they were sick in a different way? What if they were having an anxiety attack or questioning the thought of living? Should they come into work anyway? Why do we have to call and lie when we’re having a panic attack? We should just be able to tell our employers, “hey I’m taking a mental health day to focus on myself.“ We should be able to do this without being questioned or interrogated about our loyalty to the job. Mental Health is one of the leading causes of death, so maybe we should take precautions to acknowledge its existence. 

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1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness; that means about 1 in 5 employees at a job are struggling with mental health issues. The U.S. has reached the number one country in the world with mental health issues. Most people I talk to who are in college and my age have suffered from either depression or anxiety. So why are we ignoring it? Going to work, especially if you hate your job, can trigger or inflict workers anxiety or depression. Especially if you work in a fast paced environment or customer service, it can cause a lot of anxiety when having to deal with severe stressful situations. Especially working class people who have to work multiple jobs to survive, they can become overwhelmed and especially if they’re dealing with mental health issues already, there’s a good chance of them spiraling. That’s why when an employee calls in to work after a stressful day and they feel like they can’t get out of bed or are going to have an anxiety attack, instead of showing up to work anyway and pushing through an anxiety attack or even calling in to say you’re physically ill; they should be able to tell their boss they’re taking a day to focus on their mental health. 

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I’ve been in the middle of a work shift and you have other things in your life going on that affect your mental health to the point where you’re fighting back tears or holding an anxiety attack in. I’ve wanted to leave or tell my boss I have to go but I know most employers aren’t going to understand or take you seriously. Most employers fail to see you as a person with issues and only are okay sending you home if you’re about to puke all over their floors. But showing up to work when you know you aren’t able to perform or the work isn’t going to be done the way it should because you’re not mentally well, do they employers even benefit from having us there? If they took mental health seriously and mental health days off it wouldn’t only benefit the employee but the workplace.

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Vicki Shabo who speaks on ‘Paid Sick days are Critical for Workers’ Mental Health Too,’ addresses in her article a women by the name of Madalyn Parker told her boss she was taking her paid sick days off to focus on her mental health. Luckily for Madalyn her boss was more than understanding about her decision to take care of herself. Would all employers be as understanding if we told them we wanted to get paid for our mental health sick days? Should they? Absolutely they should. Mental health is just as, if not more common than if someone were to get a cold or the flu. Vicki states in her article about the topic of productivity in the workforce when aren’t mentally well; “Improving workers’ access to paid sick days isn’t just good for people’s health and economic security; it helps businesses too, by increasing productivity and employee retention rates. In her email to coworkers, Madalyn noted that she was taking time to get “back to 100%” and her boss said everyone should bring their “whole selves to work.” They both highlight the long-term cost savings to employers when employees are fully present and performing at their best and most productive.”

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The workplace and the employee themselves would benefit from mental health days. Mental illness is a big issue in the U.S. and it’s not going anywhere, so we need to take measures into our own hands for helping people with mental illness. We can start by accepting and understanding mental health in the workplace. Understanding when an employee needs time off to work on their own mental health because it is just as important and prominent as physical illness.