Can You Take Time Off for Mental Health?
The idea of taking a mental health day is not new, nor should it be frowned upon. Taking a day off from obligation, responsibility and other stressors that may lead to burnout or worsening mental illness is a crucial part of self-care. Most people would not hesitate to call out sick if they experienced an injury or have an illness, but taking time to care for their minds and soul leads to concern. It is essential to understand the vital importance of monitoring and protecting your mental health. To learn what type of care is best for you, it may help to understand how a mental health day and time for mental health treatment differ.
What is A Mental Health Day?
A mental health day is a day that someone takes off from work to focus on reducing stress and relaxing. The most effective mental health days involve tuning out, doing something fun, and making efforts to reduce obligations and responsibilities. Although one mental health day may not entirely resolve many of the underlying problems that cause stress and anxiety and eventually lead to burnout, it can provide an opportunity to regroup, relax and begin the next day with a renewed and healthier emotional outlook.
How Can A Mental Health Day Help You?
Anyone can feel overwhelmed by daily tasks. Each person manages stress differently, and when one is consistently required or expected to perform certain work-related tasks, it can quickly become exhausting. Taking a mental health day can help with aspects of both your mental and physical health. For example, a mental health day can:
- Promote relaxation and calm
- Enhance stress reduction
- Help clear your mind
- Improve your sleep
- It allows you to process your emotions
- It offers an opportunity to do something you enjoy
How to Take A Mental Health Day
Choosing to take a mental health day is a personal decision. The level to which you choose to share your reasons for taking a day off is up to you. If your employer is supportive and you decide to share, that is ok. If the opposite is true, it is ok to keep your reasons for taking a day off to yourself. People often take mental health days in one of three ways.
- They call in sick-Under most circumstances, you are not required to provide medical documentation for a single sick day. Therefore, you can simply call in and state, ” I am not feeling well today and will not be in,” or similar. You likely do not need to elaborate further.
- They schedule a mental health day for a previously planned day off-If you already have time off planned, or a work holiday presents you with a day off, use it to care for your mental health. Again, you need only share your plans with others if you are comfortable doing so.
- Use paid time off (leave) instead of sick time- You can also plan for a day off using paid time off or annual leave. Paid leave time is yours to do with as you wish, and again, you are not obligated to share your plans if you do not wish to.
How to Take A Mental Health Day
Remember that caring for your mental health is crucial to both your physical and long-term emotional health. Many people do not consider mental wellness as important to take time to address, as perhaps the flu or a broken leg. However, ignoring building stress and other mental health challenges can lead to significant challenges at work and at home.
Taking the time to decompress can prevent burnout and allow you to approach work and other potentially challenging life events with a positive outlook.
Mental Health Day vs. Mental Health Care
A mental health day generally involves one day off from work to calm your mind and reduce stress and anxiety. A planned mental health day may precede a weekend or company holiday that allows you to have several days to care for your emotions and your overall mental wellness. One does not need to have a mental health diagnosis or a history of a mental health condition to take a mental health day.
Someone seeking mental health care often does so for different reasons. Seeking inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment generally requires spending time in a mental health treatment center (residential treatment, inpatient treatment) or attending daily therapy sessions with a mental health provider at an outpatient treatment program. This type of mental health care often involves individualized and specialized treatment programs like ours at Meadowglade designed to help someone understand their mental health symptoms, learn more about a mental health diagnosis, and take their first steps towards healing and managing their symptoms after treatment ends.
As noted above, a mental health day is generally one, maybe two days. Taking a mental health day off from work often involves using sick time or paid time off. Time off for mental health treatment is similar; however, there are federal and state regulations that protect employment for someone who has to take more time off to seek mental health treatment.
Suppose you work for a company with more than 50 employees. In that case, you may also be protected by the family medical leave act, which protects your employment if you require more time off to care for your mental health than your available sick and vacation time permits. There are also protections in place for companies with fewer than 50 employees Under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Does Insurance Cover Mental Health Treatment?
It is not uncommon for people to avoid seeking mental health treatment due to fears about losing their jobs, how others may react if they find out you “went to rehab,” and worries about expenses. With the passing of the Affordable Care Act in the late 2000s, insurance providers were required to amend their policies to provide coverage for mental health (and substance abuse treatment) care at a rehab like ours at Meadowglade.
Most insurance companies offer several different plan levels. Each plan level provides varying levels of benefit to the subscriber. In general, plans with the lowest monthly out-of-pocket premium cost require the highest out-of-pocket copays and highest coverage limitations. Conversely, insurance policies with higher monthly premiums may pay as much as 95% of treatment costs and generally include lower copays.
Before seeking mental health treatment, it is a good idea to talk to your insurance company directly about your coverage for mental health. If you are unsure who to call or where to start, contact a member of our admissions team, and we can work with your insurance company to help you better understand your coverage limitations. Having a clear picture of your potential out-of-pocket expenses before beginning therapy can reduce the possibility of an unexpected financial body at the end of treatment.
How to Talk to Your Employer or HR About Your Mental Health
Deciding to talk to your employer or your human resources department about your mental health needs can be a daunting choice. It is crucial to remember that you are not alone. Recent studies suggest up to 21% of adults in the United States in the year 2020 had a mental health condition. Of those, nearly 6% experienced a severe mental illness. These are big numbers! 21% of US adults equals approximately 53 million people or about one out of every five US adults.
Now take a moment to look around your office. One out of every five people in the room (20%) has a mental health condition. When one takes a moment to look at it that way, concerns about mental health may not feel quite as isolating. However, for many, mental health remains private and, unfortunately, highly stigmatized. This is why so many people struggle day in and day out with mental health concerns yet choose to avoid seeking help and treatment.
Some organizations also have employee assistance programs or EAPs. EAPs offer a range of services, including some forms of therapy and information about mental health treatment in your area. Your EAP advisor can also provide suggestions and information about approaching HR with your treatment needs and concerns.
How Meadowglade Can Help
Taking a day to care for your mental health may seem abnormal or even inappropriate at first. Taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, or going for a hike on a day when you might otherwise be at work may seem out of the ordinary. However, basic self-care activities such as these can work wonders in helping you feel emotionally and physically better. There is no one way to spend a mental health day. The important thing is to choose activities (or no activities at all) that you enjoy and help you feel good. A mental health day is a day to think about what you want to do versus what you should be doing.
Remember that the goal of a mental health day is not to “play hookie.” Instead, it is time away from all obligations and responsibilities to heal your mind and spirit so you can return to work or your other responsibilities feeling calm, positive, and perhaps even excited about what the day holds.
If you find that the occasional mental health day is insufficient to reduce stress and anxiety or improve emotional lows and feelings of depression, it may suggest a more profound mental health treatment need. Your primary care provider or a member of our team here at Meadowglade can work with you to assess your symptoms and suggest a course of treatment that can help you start your healing journey. To learn more about us and our programs, contact a member of our admissions team today.