Mental Health Days: What It Means For Employees And Students

mental health days
Image source: Thriveworks

Everyone experiences stress, and it is especially difficult to manage when you feel overwhelmed. A reset break may be required. You’ve probably heard of people taking a mental health day, and also that October 10, 2023, is World Mental Health Day. But what exactly does that entail? Read on to learn about mental health days for students and employees at work.

What Is a Mental Health Day?

A mental health day is a paid or unpaid day off from work for employees to take care of themselves and address a variety of well-being concerns, such as anxiety, depression, exhaustion or work burnout, or panic attack.

Whether these issues are caused by work demands such as excessive pressure, hostile workplace conditions, or work-life imbalance, or are caused by factors beyond an employer’s control, mental health days can be an important tool for recognizing and addressing the pressures that can contribute to them.

When and How Should You Take a Mental Health Day?

Scheduling the day off in advance ensures that you have the day off while also allowing you to plan your absence. You don’t want the days leading up to your mental health day to be stressful, so planning ahead of time is essential. Poor mental health, on the other hand, can appear unexpectedly. If you wake up feeling stressed, down, or anxious, it might be a good idea to take a mental health day. Remember that you can always schedule your mental health day on a non-working day. Use your discretion and pay attention to your mind and body.

What Do We Do on Mental Health Awareness Day?

It’s time to decide what to do after you’ve decided when and how you’ll take your mental health day. First, consider what you require the most. Do you need to unwind? Or perhaps you require some time with family or friends. Perhaps you require a day of shopping and pampering. You are the expert on yourself, so consider what would re-energize you. There are numerous ways to spend your day, whether you decide to sleep in, engage in a hobby you enjoy, or spend time with a friend. Spend your day doing things that will improve your physical and mental health.

Mental Health Days At Work

With more than half of workers suffering from burnout, and symptoms ranging from exhaustion and depression to a lack of focus and poor work performance, you’re probably looking for ways to add programs or benefits that can reduce your employees’ stress levels. Mental health days at work are becoming more common. But are they appropriate for your business? Read on.

What are the Advantages of Taking Mental Health Days off Work For Employees?

Employees can use mental health days to focus on their mental health by providing them with:

  • A chance to practice yoga, go on a hike or engage in other forms of exercise
  • Enough time to rest
  • The chance to collaborate with a mental health professional
  • Spending time with friends or family
  • The ability to engage in a hobby

Employees may be able to reset and avoid burnout or debilitating stress by providing this dedicated time off.

Mental health days may also benefit your company. Because stress can lead to decreased productivity, employee conflict, and mental detachment from projects, providing mental health days can be the much-needed break workers require to recharge and return to work refreshed. This can lead to improved performance, increased motivation, and higher levels of satisfaction.

By devoting time to their mental health, your employees will be able to return to work with renewed vigor, making them more productive than if they had continued to work with little to no motivation. Consider the following when adjusting your sick leave or paid time off policy to accommodate mental health days:

#1. Encourage open discussions about mental health.

Make it clear to your employees that you care about them and their needs, no matter what they are. Provide resources and education about mental health awareness on your company intranet, and keep employees informed of any updates or changes to your leave policy.

#2. Adopt a policy of no-questions-asked

Mental health days can take many forms. Whether your employees request a day or two off, block off an hour or two for a therapy appointment, call in with little to no notice, or need to leave work unexpectedly, show support by first asking if they’re OK — and then granting the time off without further questioning. If you suspect an employee is abusing the policy, first evaluate their performance and then meet with them separately to discuss your concerns.

#3. Following time off, follow up with your employees.

Even if your employees do not want to discuss their reasons for taking a mental health day, you can check in with them while respecting their privacy. Ask them if they’re feeling rested and restored, or if they require any additional assistance, such as a temporarily reduced workload, especially if their stress is work-related. Even if they don’t, the thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

Do I Compensate Employees for Mental Health Leave?

There are several options for providing mental health days to employees at your company, some of which are paid and some of which are unpaid.

Paid Time Off (PTO): You can give employees paid time off for any reason, whether they want to use it for vacation, sick days, or personal days.

Paid mental health leave: As an employee benefit, your company may decide to provide paid mental health leave. These days would be distinct from sick days, paid time off, and vacation time.

Short-term disability: As a voluntary benefit, your company may offer short-term disability, which provides paid mental health leave to employees who purchase the plans. Coverage can last anywhere from 30 days to a year.

FMLA leave: Under the FMLA, employees can take unpaid job-protected leave to address serious mental health conditions. Serious conditions necessitate in-patient care or ongoing treatment from a healthcare provider.

Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Sick leave for reasons related to mental health is a frequently used accommodation for workers with mental health conditions who require accommodations under the ADA to perform their jobs.

Paid Family and Medical Leave: Some states have paid leave laws in place that may allow for time off to address mental health issues. In Massachusetts, for example, most employees are eligible for paid leave to care for a serious health condition, which can be physical or mental.

What Should a Mental Health Day Policy Include?

If you decide to provide mental health days, make sure the benefit is clearly stated in your employee handbook. The policy should address the following issues:

Who qualifies: It is best to provide employees with company-wide mental health days. This way, your policy will be applied consistently. However, you may want to limit it to full-time employees only.

How many days are permitted: If you decide to provide designated mental health days to employees, consider how many you’ll provide, such as two days per year, and whether they must be used continuously or can be taken intermittently. It is worth noting that the average American believes they require a week’s worth of mental health days.

How to Request a Leave of Absence: While there should be no questions asked when requesting a mental health day, you may want to require that the request is in writing. Keep in mind that employees may not always be able to provide adequate advance notice, so be cautious when establishing timing rules.

Pay policies: You should specify whether the days are paid or unpaid.

On weekends and holidays: Don’t forget to tell employees that they should not check email or voicemail during their mental health days because the whole point is for them to relax.

Additional assistance available: Include other options for employees to use at your company, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other resources you may provide.

Once you’ve established your policy, make sure to inform employees about mental health days. And encourage them to do so. One way to accomplish this is to set a good example. Employees may be more likely to follow suit if managers take mental health days.

How to Implement Mental Health Days in Your Organization

Providing mental health days for employees can be an important way to demonstrate that you care about their health and well-being. It’s a good idea to check on how they’re working to ensure workers are benefiting from them. Consider surveying employees after the first year to see if they took the days and if they helped, as well as if they have any other suggestions for improving their mental health at work.

Mental Health Days For Students

Schools are increasingly granting excused absences for mental health days. The reality is that mental health issues, like physical illness, can interfere with attendance.

Students are growing up in a more complex world than they have ever known. Technology and other societal advancements have made it difficult for anyone to avoid ongoing demands that range from societal concerns to work or school tasks. Furthermore, youth do not have fully developed coping skills to deal with these ongoing pressures. Youths are more sensitive to stress because their thought processes have not fully matured. The pandemic’s effects have increased stress and anxiety among our youth. As society attempts to resume more normal daily activities, the shutdown has exacerbated student mental health concerns.

Concerning statistics about depression and suicide among our youth highlight the importance of considering mental health days for students. Parents and schools must both pay close attention to students and communicate with them. The key to success is frequent and effective communication.

Rise In Mental Health Days For Students

The majority of legislation allowing for excused absences based on mental health concerns has been passed in the last three years. These days are now included in legislation in slightly more than 25% of states. Five days is a common number of allowable excused absences for mental health issues.

Illinois is one example of a state that recently passed legislation allowing students to take excused mental health days. Beginning in January 2022, this state began allowing up to five mental health days per year. There is no need for a doctor’s note to use these days, and all work can be made up. Illinois student mental health days are intended to help students cope with social and academic pressures.

Schools frequently emphasize the importance of caring for the whole child, but there is a lack of acceptance regarding student mental health concerns. Schools must combine mental health awareness days with other outreach efforts. Prioritizing mental health is proactive and an investment in creating school cultures and classroom climates where all students feel welcome and safe to learn.

It is critical for schools to invest in emotional support centers and to prioritize social-emotional learning. Mental health days should be viewed as just one component of a student and family support network. Schools can even incorporate mental health discussions into their health curricula to increase the impact and education on this topic.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Mental Health Days for Students

A mental health day every now and then can help you regain perspective and recharge for the days ahead. When organizing a mental health day, it is critical to consider the timing. These days should be taken when stress levels are high because the time away will allow one to recharge and be more productive when they return. Taking these days lightly and without thought is a disadvantage of mental health days for students.

Another disadvantage of mental health days for students is that they can facilitate avoidance if approached and timed incorrectly. Students should not use these days to avoid difficult assignments or dreaded peer interactions. When these days are used to avoid work, the stresses of returning to more work that has piled up or missing a critical discussion related to assessment success can add to the stress. Instead of extending a break, these days should be used during a long stretch.

As previously stated, mental health days have numerous advantages for students. The ability to rest is a benefit of using mental health days. Many studies have demonstrated the importance of sleep in terms of productivity and innovation. As a result, mental health days would allow students to catch up and get back on track with their sleep schedule. This advantage may improve academic thought processes, leading to greater academic success. During these days, families can also focus on healthy and balanced eating because mental and physical health are inextricably linked.

The prudent use of mental health days allows a person to regain control and concentrate on self-care. Once a person has regained his or her footing and perspective, he or she can concentrate, making instruction and learning more effective. Mental health days can aid in the maintenance of a healthy balance.

Students’ Mental Health Day Activities

Mental health days are an excellent time to reflect on one’s overall health. Sleep should be prioritized when one of these days is required. Physical activity should be combined with nutritious meals and a focus on nutrition.

When their children require a mental health day, parents can invest in healthy parenting. These days can be spent having fun and spending quality time with parents. Board games, sports, and outdoor walks are just a few examples of family activities. Furthermore, these days allow for meaningful family discussions. Another example of making good use of mental health days is to begin additional treatment for mental health. Outside help should be considered if a student requires a few mental health days per year. Outside counseling and school counseling are two examples of additional support.

How Many Mental Health Days Are Necessary?

A child should not take a set number of mental health days each year. However, setting a limit as a family can help. You could set a limit, such as five per academic year.

World Mental Health Day – October 10, 2023.

World Mental Health Day is on October 10, 2023. Since the early 1990s, when the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) was officially established the day, mental health has come a long way. Our increased self-awareness and sensitivity to it have improved things. In this section, we’ll see how the World Mental Health Day came to be.

History Of The World Mental Health Day

The World Federation of Mental Health, led by Richard Hunter, the deputy secretary-general at the time, established World Mental Health Day in 1992. They didn’t have a specific goal other than to advocate for mental health in general. To say the least, it was an uphill battle to change a slew of bad and dangerous habits that were exacerbating an already difficult situation.

The world was plagued by a slew of untreated mental health issues. There were struggles to obtain public funding for treatment in France, inhumane treatment in New Zealand, and a general lack of understanding about what mental health is. The WFMH understood that in order to solve a global crisis, they needed to act on a global scale.

For the first three years, a two-hour telecast was broadcast around the world via the US information agency satellite. The studio was located in Tallahassee, Florida, and it proved to be an effective means of spreading their advocacy message around the world. Chile, England, Australia, and Zambia took part, while Geneva, Atlanta, and Mexico City pre-taped segments for broadcast.

The first World Mental Health Day theme was ‘Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World’ in 1994. Following the campaign, 27 countries sent feedback reports, and there were national campaigns in Australia and England. Keeping the momentum going, WFMH board members around the world organized events in honor of the day and its growing popularity among government departments, organizations, and civilians alike.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) arranged for the translation of the planning kit material into Spanish, French, Russian, Hindi, Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic beginning in 1995 and continuing to the present. As time passed, more countries became involved, as did civilians, as the perception of mental health became more synonymous with human rights.

Is It Okay to Take Mental Health Leave?

If your workplace isn’t supportive of the concept of a mental health day, simply tell them you’re taking a sick day. For mental health reasons, “personal days” are also acceptable.

How Should I Inform My Boss That I Need A Mental Health Day?

Here are some suggestions: “Recently I’ve been having a hard time with my [condition] and am going to take a sick day today to try and rest up. I’ll return tomorrow.” “I’m feeling burnt out, and am planning to take a sick day today to take care of my mental health. I’ll be back in the office tomorrow; please be patient.

How Do You Implement Mental Health Days?

Create a balanced mental health kit for employees and outline the rules for employee mental health days. Inform employees about the company’s mental health day policy, and consider including mental health awareness tips in an employee newsletter.

In Conclusion,

Whether the source of stress is work-related or not, it is always important to take a mental health day off work once in a while. If you require more than one day, consider taking a vacation or a short weekend trip close to home. If you believe that your overall stress levels require more than a mental health day, you should discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider or a mental health professional.

  1. FINANCIAL STRESS: How To Deal With It
  2. EMPLOYEE HEALTH: Tips on How to Improve and Maintain Employees Health
  3. EMPLOYEE WELLNESS PROGRAMS: Best Ideas, Activities, Programs & Benefits
  4. Employee Contract: Examples, Guide & Template
  5. HOW TO CALL OUT OF WORK: Requesting for Leave of Absence


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