Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty For Taking A Mental Health Day

It’s super common for people to take sick days from work without anyone blinking an eye, but taking a mental health day isn’t something we talk about as openly as a sickie because there’s a stigma still attached to it. The need for a mental day can therefore be associated with feelings of shame and guilt.

Matti Clements – director and senior psychologist at Mental Edge Consulting – believes a holistic approach and understanding needs to be taken to ensure people feel supported for all health issues within the workplace. “I’m a big believer that mental illnesses should be treated the same as physical injuries,” he says, also noting many people are covering up the real reason behind their sick days or leave.

Clements believes If we bring mental and physical illness closer together in thinking, then we’ll have a better acceptance and understanding of how to manage mental health issues. “It’s important that employers and businesses understand that people may need time off for a mental health issue, just as they may need time off when they have a cold or a physical injury.”

Former AFL player and founder of mental health foundation Love Me Love You Lance Picioane has struggled with mental health issues and knows how important it is to take the time off you need to ensure you’re looking after yourself.

He believes you should never feel guilty taking a mental health day, and shares four ways to manage it all effectively in the workplace.

Switch off to reduce work pressures

There’s still a misconception that having a mental health day means you’ve got an illness. When taking a mental health day, people are worried that this will be misconstrued and viewed as if they have pressures going on in their life that will likely result in more time off. Whether you call it a mental health day or not is up to you, but it’s important to understand what that break means to you and actually take it.

This means being able to switch off from the pressure and challenges that work causes for people. “It doesn’t even have to be a day,” says Picioane, “It can just be an afternoon or a later morning. It’s having that ability to say ‘I’m doing something for me here so that I can give 100% when I’m working’.”

Ensure workplaces are healthy to prevent crisis

“The hardest thing to do is ask for help, but if you keep all the pressures on yourself the only way it’s going to come out is when you finally explode,” says Picioane.

He advises to put healthy measures in place – take your proper lunchtime and implement 15 minute breaks throughout the day. “During your lunch break or coffee break it’s important to socialise with people, because if you do need help, you want to feel comfortable enough to put your hand up. “The more pressure people are putting on themselves to hide mental illness, the worse it becomes.”

Be selective when choosing who to open up to in the workplace

Lance recommends to only open up to your trusted network or trusted people in your workplace, and if you find a colleague opening up to you, you have a due diligence to act as a support network.

“If people muster up the courage to seek help and trust you to have that conversation, it’s your duty to be that friend and support network that they need in that situation,” said Lance.

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Get the conversation started

“The more conversations we have, the more conversations people are understanding about the challenges individuals are going through,” said Lance. “It’s not just me that’s going through stuff, but if I put the conversation out there, I guarantee that there’s going to be five other people in the workplace that are going through something just as challenging.

Clements agrees that the most important thing in increasing education and acceptance around mental illness is to start conversations.

“Mental health issues and illness and wellbeing are not only the domain of a psychologist or a doctor; everyone should be having these conversations. If people learn and understand that it’s everyone’s concern in terms of having a conversation, it’s a far better culture for an organisation, the workplace, a football club or even a family,” says Clements.

Love Me Love You‘s 2016 Mental Health Breakfast is taking place this Friday October 14.