There has been a noted pattern occurring when I offer the Mental Health First Aid workshop regarding the use of mental heath days. When we are discussing case scenario’s of different ways they could offer support to a co-worker who present with symptoms of a mental illness there seems to be hesitation to consider the use of these essential days. Personal bias regarding mental health, the workplace culture and the role of the individual offering and/or receiving the advice shapes the idea that using a mental health day is inappropriate. However, if it were a physical health issue, such as the flu or stomach issues there would be less of a hesitation.

There is an urgency for people to not only use mental health days, within reason of course, but to be encouraged to use them as many times people feel they are not entitled. The mindset that helping people as a collective to become more cognizant of when they need a mental break is key to supporting a psychological safe workplace. To me, the ability to demonstrate what I like to call PMS “Preventative Mindset Smarts” is essential to implementing and sustaining any self-care practice. It involves removing the shame regarding the need for a break and requires self-awareness, self-compassion and self-resilience to ask for the needed mental health day. When a person feels comfortable to get to this point it should be celebrated. However, the sad reality is that as a society we are not there yet. As more and more safe platforms for discussing mental health and mental illness are offered to employees a positive shift is occurring.

Lying about having cold symptoms when in actuality, you are emotionally and mentally exhausted should not be the norm.

As people continue to be courageous and share their story, express their needs and increase their awareness regarding how to manage mental health problems the use of mental health days will become less stigmatized.

How do you plan to do your part in this movement? What would help you as an employee or as a Manager to create a workplace culture where mental health days are not something to shy away from and definitely not something to be ashamed of because as Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the World Health Organisation, says: “Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders.” I would like to expand on this to say that it is beyond those diagnosed with a mental illness it is also how we respond to people who perhaps do not have a diagnoses, but demonstrate PMS and attempt to practice self-care to maintain good mental health and prevent the development of a mental illness.

Self-Care is the Best Care and Your Time is N.O.W. to be a part of this collective movement towards Mental Health for All.