Can Taking a Mental Health Day Get You Fired?

Photo courtesy of Jinx!

Taking a sick day when you’re feeling physically horrible is generally considered acceptable by most employers, as long as it doesn’t happen all the time. However, tending to your mental health can be slightly more controversial if not handled correctly.

Nearly every job entails some amount of stress.  Add to that the high paced personal lives that many Americans are living, and you end up with a very mentally weary workforce, pushing themselves day after day to make it to their jobs. If you’re not physically ill –  is it ok to call in “sick?”

The answer doesn’t seem to be very cut-and-dried in very many employee handbooks.

If you’re feeling mentally drained, your workplace probably won’t benefit from your presence anyway, so taking an unscheduled day at home recovering your brainpower might be really beneficial. Just keep a few things in mind:

  • Remember to call your boss.
    Forgetting to let your superiors know that you won’t be at work is definitely not a good start to a relaxing day off. Call (don’t text) any and all management who need to know of your absence.
  • Use generalities.
    Explain that you are just not feeling well and that it would be best if you did not come in to the office that day. Avoid saying that you are sick so that you aren’t actually lying and to avoid the day after ”How are you feeling?” conversations.
  • Choose your day appropriately.
    Taking a day off when the office is already understaffed or super-busy will irritate co-workers who have to pick up your slack. Choose a slow day to take a mental rest.
  • Plan ahead.
    Avoid anything stressful on your mental health day - figure out how you’re going to spend your time before the actual day. Rent movies, borrow books, buy that ice cream you want to indulge in. Have everything on hand so that you don’t even have to leave the house.
  • Unplug.
    If you must, give yourself 30 minutes to answer personal emails, and then disconnect from the outside world. Turn off your computer and cell phone in order to focus entirely on relaxation.
  • Choose your company wisely.
    Spending your mental health day with a friend might possibly lead to drama or conflict. Don’t take that chance on your day off. Go solo and make all of the decisions yourself.
  • Don’t be seen in public.
    Why take the risk of being spotted by a coworker or superior? Stay at home, where you can recover your mental clarity while staying out of the spotlight.

The bottom line is this: your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and although a small number of managers still expect their employees to tough it out, many employers today understand the value of a mental health day. In order to limit your need for excessive absences, though, make sure you are constantly making tiny improvements in your everyday life, leaving you better equipped to handle stressors without becoming overloaded.

 

 

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    • Laurie

      Typically, if I wake up to find that I need a mental health day, I have failed to balance my life and planning for the day before it gets here was just not on my radar.  Fortunately for me, we get PTO and do not have to give reasons that we take one or two days off; however, instead of waiting until I absolutely NEED the mental health day, I like the idea of planning for one so that it will be a truly re-creational day.

      • Adrienne McGuire

        Exactly, Laurie. The ultimate goal is to balance our lives well enough that we never reach the point of needing an entire day just to save our sanity. And, yeah, planning for a day off once in awhile might actually prevent the need for an emergency mental health day too!