Need a mental health day but afraid to say? 2023


Even on healthy days, work may be difficult. Mental health day off? Should you tell your management the truth? You’re lucky if your workplace allows mental health discussions.

Despite advancements in understanding and discussing mental health, stigma and prejudice restrict many of us from telling supervisors and coworkers when we’re struggling.

Mental illnesses vary. Some will battle it for life. Many will struggle with stress and seeking a break. The World Health Organization estimates that 970 million people—one in eight—have a mental condition, with 380 million having anxiety-related diseases and 360 million having depression.

Due to pandemic-related social isolation, economic difficulty, health issues, and interpersonal tensions, their numbers have increased 25% since 2019.

Work responsibilities may have contributed to long-term mental health decline. Mental illness is linked to three workplace factors: uneven job design, occupational unpredictability, and loss of worth and respect.

This may explain why affluent industrialized nations have greater sadness and anxiety

Managerial attitudes evolving slowly Thus, mental health is becoming a workplace issue. Prejudices are hard to change. These challenges are nevertheless perceived as weak, unstable, or incompetent.

These attitudes make it harder for people with mental health conditions to obtain fulfilling jobs and advance their careers.

Like the rest of the population, business leaders and managers lack mental health understanding and workplace management abilities.

Management research reflects this blind gap. Managerial comprehension of mental health concerns is best studied in 2014. Only 10% of HR professionals and managers felt confident assisting employees with mental health issues. Managers may not know how to address hidden prejudices against mental health workers.

Thus, many individuals remain unwilling to report their mental health issues to coworkers and bosses, fearing misunderstanding and career damage. But hiding and “soldiering on” might worsen mental health.

Conversational framing Now what? Leadership matters. Leaders and managers discussing their mental health issues may initiate cultural transformation in all organizations. This encourages imitation.

Language matters too. Talking about mental health can affect our views. The Australian National Mental Health Commission uses “mental health challenges” instead of “mental illness”. Mental health days can help others see them as something everyone needs, not just “sick” people.

“Mental health advocates” are a novel notion for larger companies.

In 2017, Energy Queensland, a government-owned company with 7,600 employees, maintained the state’s power distribution infrastructure. James Hill and Aaron McCann are now “mental health lived experience advocates” full-time. Hill was an electrician and McCann a lineworker for the company. Both have battled depression and suicide thoughts.

Our survey of over 300 psychologists, psychiatrists, and others in mental health services found that “lived experience” advocates encourage more open organizational cultures, helping to reduce the stigma that prevents others from admitting mental health issues.

A few companies worldwide provide “wellness/wellbeing days”—no-certificate days off that can be utilized at any time.

As service sector productivity increases and competition for skills and talent rises, companies that recognise and accommodate contemporary life’s mental health stressors will have the edge.

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