Despite the positive coverage in the media about workers’ rights to take mental health leave, and also the fact that it is becoming more and more common, there are reports that over half of workers are too worried to take it. A report in the Daily Telegraph(1) quotes a SEEK survey that found two-thirds of job seekers felt workers taking a mental health day to deal with conditions such as anxiety, depression or burnout was now accepted by society. However, 55 per cent had decided not to take the leave even though they needed it because they were worried about possible repercussions. Psychologist Sabina Read told the Telegraph that workers might feel scared of taking a mental health day because bosses and co-workers might judge them as weak, incompetent, or less valuable than others. She said our society had a long way to go before both mental health and physical health were seen through a similar lens.
2. Everyone Benefits From Mentally Friendly Workplaces
Dr Grant Blashki, a General Practitioner and leading clinical advisor at Beyondblue (who has decades of experience in the mental health sector) told the ABC(2) it wasn’t only employees who benefited from taking a mental health day off work if they needed it and also having a ‘mental health friendly’ workplace. He quoted a major report by Beyondblue that found for every dollar a workplace spent on making it more mentally healthy the organisation would recoup on average $2.30 long term. The reasons were both less absenteeism and fewer workers coming to work feeling unwell and being less productive.
2. Are Mental Health Days Just ‘Chucking a Sickie’?
Yes, Dr Blashki says there are some people who will use a mental health day to simply take some time off when they don’t really need it – known in Australia as ‘chucking a sickie’. But for those who genuinely need them, and there are many who do, mental health days are crucial for their wellbeing. Dr Blashki says we all need to be a bit careful with our language since in Australian culture we use words such as ‘depression’ or ‘mental health day’ in a colloquial fashion rather than in a clinical sense. There is also a stigma around workers claiming compensation for physical injuries in the workplace and even more around claiming psychological injury which makes those injured reluctant about making a claim. Why We Won’t Talk About Our Mental Health An understandable fear about coworkers and bosses casting us in a negative light often makes us reluctant to talk about how we feel at work and stops us from taking a mental health day when we need. Some workers will call in sick due to ‘migraines’ or ‘diarrhoea’ rather than admit to feeling stressed, highly anxious or depressed. This usually boils down to shame in the community and workplace culture.
2. Know When You Need a Psychologist
You need to be clear about looking after your mental health and wanting a day off but it doesn’t mean you need to be diagnosed as having a mental illness to take a mental health day. The aim is to take the leave before it gets so bad that it becomes a serious mental health issue. If you’re not too sure about whether you need to take leave, here are some warning signs: Physical: If you suffer from a lot of colds and flu, migraines or tension headaches, back or neck pain, gastrointestinal problems, serious weight loss or gain, skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne and mouth ulcers. Behaviour: If you’re grumpy, begin to disconnect, lack energy for work, see changes in your performance, make small errors. Mood: If you feel angry, frustrated and irritable, have low tolerance and react tearfully or feel anxious or reactive. Thoughts: If you feel pessimistic, negative, disgruntled, discontented, disillusioned, and find yourself catastrophising and personalising things.
2. Who to Call if You or Anyone You Know is in Need of Help:
Beyondblue on 1300 224 636 Lifeline on 13 11 14 Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 Headspace on 1800 650 890 Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 QLife on 1800 184 527 Research shows that many people thinking about suicide get both helpful and unhelpful interactions and reactions from professionals and community members. The CALM suicide education program is specifically designed to provide you with the the skills to know what to say and what to do when someone may be thinking about suicide and it will help to have that conversation. Call us on (07)3077 6536 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. ____________________________________________________________________________ References: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/workers-too-scared-to-take-mental-health-leave/news-story/0529276d84e06709c797d42f18b17bc2 https://www.abc.net.au/life/how-to-take-mental-health-day/10007706 Author’s Bio Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for PK Simpson.