Mental Health Sick Day? No Problem!

Mental health days are vital to many professionals' long-term work performance and well-being. Many employees opt to stay home due to pronounced feelings of distress, burnout, anxiety, depression, etc. A common misconception of a mental health day is the admission of feeling overwhelmed, being unable to cope, using an excuse to stay home and do something fun, or portraying an act of corporate disloyalty. However, this is NOT the case by any means. 

There is growing evidence that stress has become detrimental to our work performance and satisfaction, caused by numerous factors such as commuting to and from the office, project deadlines, conflicts with colleagues, increasing job demands, etc. (Harvey et al., 2017; Joyce et al., 2016; LaMontagne et al., 2010; LaMontagne et al., 2007; LaMontagne et al., 2014). These damaging effects are even more heightened for those who have a mental illness if left unattended to. 

Progressive companies get this. Progressive encourage employees to work remotely from home, engage in flexible work hours to avoid traffic and better manage responsibilities at home, and reaffirm that it is OKAY to take a mental health sick day. 


Let's take the recent case of Madalyn Parker, a web developer at Olark Live Chat in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When she emailed her colleagues to let them know she would be using two sick days to focus on her mental health, the CEO of the company Ben Congleton responded in an exemplary manner by thanking her for helping "cut through the stigma" of mental health. The responses went viral on Twitter and were accompanied with overwhelming support. 

Being applauded for displaying vulnerability is a rare occurrence in our current workplace cultures. We have to learn from displays such as this to reframe what it means to truly value employee mental health. It is important that support comes from higher levels of management so that conversations can be started in regards to how we can build environments where employees feel psychologically safe. When CEOs and managers lead by example, employees are more likely to follow suit. 

Want to read more about mental health sick days? Need ideas on how to get the most out of your mental health sick day? Click here. 

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Harvey, S. B., Modini, M., Joyce, S., Milligan-Saville, J. S., Tan, L., Mykletun, A., ... Mitchell, P. B. (2017). Can work make you mentally ill? A systematic meta-review of work-related risk factors for common mental health problems. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 74(4), 301-310. http://dx.

Joyce, S., Modini, M., Christensen, H., Mykletun, A., Bryant, R., Mitchell, P. B., Harvey, S. B. (2016). Workplace interventions for common mental disorders: A systematic meta-review. Psychological Medicine, 46, 683–697.

LaMontagne, A. D., Keegel, T., Louie, A. M., Ostry, A., 2010. Job stress as a preventable upstream determinant of common mental disorders: a review for practitioners and policy-makers. Advanced Mental Health, 9, 17–35

LaMontagne, A. D., Keegel, T., Louie, A. M., Ostry, A., Landsbergis, P. A. (2007). A systematic review of the job-stress intervention evaluation literature, 1990–2005. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 13(3), 268–280.

LaMontagne, A. D., Martin, A., Page, K. M., Reavley, N. J., Noblet, A. J., Milner, A. J., ... Smith, P. M. (2014). Workplace mental health: Developing an integrated intervention approach. BMC Psychiatry, 14, 131.