Break your arm, and it’s pretty obvious to everyone that you have an injury. You’ll wear a sling for a while. You’ll wince when someone brushes past you in the grocery store.
Your injury is apparent. It’s visible. People can see evidence of it.
The same goes for a broken leg. (Leg cast.) Or a broken neck. (C-collar.) Or even a nasty scratch. (Band-aid.)
Unfortunately, a mental health condition doesn’t afford you the same luxury.
You can’t wrap it in a cast. Or stick a band-aid on it. So it’s not obvious. It’s not visible. People can’t see evidence of it.*
But mental health is health. So we should treat (and heal) a mental health condition like any other injury.
That means taking time out so we can manage our condition. A day off work when we don’t feel great is sometimes all we need to feel better. Twenty-four hours to recharge our batteries and focus our minds. A day for healing, peace, and building inner strength.
What is a Mental Health Day?
A mental health day can be a lot of things. It can be a day to reflect on a difficult life circumstance, or a day to rest and get more sleep, or simply just pause and regroup.
Convincing a boss to recognize a mental health day, however, can be a challenge, and even some employees don’t like the idea. Sixty-two percent of American employees worry about their bosses judging them for taking time off to look after their mental health, while 57 percent think mental health isn’t a valid enough excuse to stay at home.
Many people don’t recognize a mental health condition like a physical one. That’s because there’s no evidence of an injury. There’s no sling. No band-aid. This collective failure to acknowledge mental health can make things worse for so many of us.
Many private, state, and local government workers in the U.S. with paid sick leave are scared of being punished for taking time off for mental health reasons. So those workers go to work, anyway. They suffer in silence.
“You wouldn’t feel bad about taking time off when sick. You shouldn’t feel bad about taking some time off when you’re sad,” clinical health psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Natalie C. Dattilo, tells the New York Times.
Convincing employers might be a challenge, but the benefits of mental health days far outweigh the consequences of going to the office when we don’t feel well.
Taking a day (or two) off work when we feel down lets us regulate our emotions in a safe space, free from the pressures of the 9-5 grind. For us in the movie industry, that might mean 24 hours away from the movie studio, cinema, or screening room — and all the people that populate those environments.
There are other potential benefits.
Research from Australia shows that sadness can enhance our memories, improve judgment, and even motivate us. It sounds strange but staying at home and being melancholy could actually be good for us. And that’s why we need more mental health days.
It’s OK to feel sad now and again. It’s part of the human condition. So never feel bad for taking time off to treat a mental health condition. Perhaps in a few years, taking time off for mental health will be as common as vacation days and flex-time. Until then, take care of your mental health by taking a day off now and then. Remember, this is the only life you have, take care of you!
*To learn more about how to recognize the signs of a mental health crisis or concern, take a look at the image below.