Could taking a ‘mental health day’ actually be bad for your mental health?

by Raj Das

The Growing Trend of Mental Health Breaks at Work

If you’ve ever experienced a mental health issue, you understand how it can make even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. Everyday activities like making a phone call or sending an email suddenly drain the little energy you had, and everything begins to feel overwhelming. It’s no wonder that working becomes incredibly challenging. It’s nearly impossible to maintain a facade of efficiency and capability when your mind feels like it’s falling apart.

However, there is a new trend among younger employees who are looking to combat this struggle. They are starting to book off “mental health” days at work, similar to how their older colleagues would call in sick for migraines or the flu. A recent survey conducted by workplace wellbeing platform Unmind revealed that 49 percent of respondents had taken time off work due to poor mental health. Among workers aged between 16 and 25, this number rose to a staggering 66 percent.

This increase in mental health breaks can be interpreted in two very different ways. The more optimistic view suggests that this rise indicates progress—a reflection of the greater awareness and reduced stigma surrounding mental health concerns. Dr. Nick Taylor, CEO and co-founder of Unmind, emphasizes this perspective. He believes that this trend demonstrates a positive shift in the workplace culture, where people feel more comfortable taking time off to prioritize their mental well-being.

However, a more troubling interpretation suggests that this increase is symptomatic of a broken work culture. While mental health is hailed as a “priority,” there is a lack of meaningful action being taken to address the issue. This interpretation poses serious concerns. It suggests that employees are booking mental health days out of necessity, indicating that their work environment is not conducive to supporting their mental well-being. If the work culture fails to foster a healthy work-life balance, it could lead to long-term consequences for both individuals and companies.

Companies need to recognize the significance of this trend and respond accordingly. It is not enough to simply pay lip service to mental health. Employers must take concrete steps to prioritize employee well-being, address mental health concerns, and create a supportive and inclusive work environment. This could involve implementing mental health programs, providing resources for employees to seek help, and fostering a culture that encourages open conversations about mental health.

Additionally, managers and supervisors need to be trained to recognize the signs of mental health issues and offer support to employees who may be struggling. By acknowledging and addressing mental health concerns, companies can create an environment where employees feel valued, understood, and supported.

Ultimately, the growing trend of mental health breaks at work highlights the importance of prioritizing mental well-being in the workplace. Employers must seize this opportunity to take significant action towards creating a healthy and supportive work environment. By doing so, they can not only improve the well-being and productivity of their employees but also foster a more positive and sustainable work culture for years to come.

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