• Sick leave has steadily decreased in the UK, but more people are now taking days off for their mental health.
  • It suggests companies are more open-minded about the fact employees suffer with their mental health sometimes.
  • Experts say there are steps to take if you want to approach your manager about taking a mental health day off.
  • How much you reveal is completely up to you, and depends on your company culture — some aren’t as progressive as others.

The world is moving towards mental health gaining the recognition it deserves. About one in six people in the past week have experienced a common mental health problem, according to the Mental Health Foundation, such as depression or anxiety. Overall, mental health problems are one of the main causes of disease burden worldwide.

There are now days and weeks devoted to mental health, and there is more research than ever going into figuring out, for example, why PhD students are at a particularly high risk of mental health problems, and why the lives of millennials could be more plagued by mental health issues than their parents — not least because of the impact of social media.

According to a new report from the Office of National Statistics, more people are taking mental health days off work than they did in 2009. The proportion of younger workers aged 25 to 34 attributing their sickness absence to mental health conditions has risen from 7.2% in 2009 to 9.6% in 2017 — an increase of 2.4%.

Women are also more likely than men to say they were absent because of their mental heath, according to the data. About 8% of women cited mental health compared to 5.7% of men.

“Sickness absence for mental health reasons could be higher for women because men are less likely to seek medical help for mental health problems than women and also because medical professionals are more likely to diagnose women with mental health conditions than men,” the report reads.

Overall, work days lost to sickness were at their lowest on record in 2017. That suggests a higher proportion of sick days are being devoted to mental health, and that people are becoming more comfortable with being open about needing to tend to their state of mind.

Last year, a CEO of a company was praised on Twitter for how he responded to one of his employees taking two days off for her mental health.

“I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this,” he wrote in an email that was widely circulated via the employee’s tweet.

“Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organisations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can bring our whole selves to work.”

Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Amy Morin explains in a blog post for Psychology Today how mental health should be treated like physical health. She said there are three situations where taking a mental health day is called for: when you’re distracted by something, when you’ve been neglecting yourself, and when you need to attend mental health care appointments.

“If you had a cold, you might decide to power through your workday,” she wrote. “But if you had the flu, you’d likely need to stay home and rest — and no one would call you ‘weak’ for getting the flu. In fact, your co-workers would likely thank you for not coming into the office when you’re sick.”

Some people feel their bosses might not believe them, but psychologist Perpetua Neo told Business Insider this is an assumption we have to shake.

“You don’t ask a person to prove cancer,” she said. “You don’t ask a person to show their blood tests — you believe them.”

Since some companies are more progressive than others, it might seem difficult to know how to approach asking for a mental health day off — especially if you’ve never done it before. A post on Bustle outlined the steps to take if you want to approach your manager for a mental health day off.

1. Work out the company culture.

“It is vital to assess if your company and work culture is open to the idea of mental health days,” Julieann Ipsan, a therapist at the Frederick Psychology Center told Bustle. “If asking and explaining details will ultimately create more stress, it’s better to take a sick day with no explanation of the mental health needs.”

If it’s a case of one of two days to recharge, you might not need to disclose anything other than the fact you don’t feel up to work, and you’ll be back as soon as possible. But if it’s a longer term issue, you might want to open a dialogue with your manager about why you’re likely to struggle sometimes.

2. Be clear about why you need the time off

You should then work out why you need the time off, whether it’s exhaustion, grief, anxiety, or family issues. It’s up to you how much information you divulge, so don’t feel pressured into spilling your whole life story.

But if you feel comfortable and trust your manager, you can use it as an opportunity to be transparent with them, so they can understand the burden of your mental health issues a bit better. It may also help with other employees going through similar situations in the future.

3. Explain how it’s beneficial to both you and the company

“In an effort to open up dialogue about mental health in the workplace, if an employee feels comfortable with their supervisor, they [can] frame the request for a mental health day in terms of a ‘win/win’ for the employee and employer,” Jesse Viner, the CMO of mental health services provider Yellowbrick, told Bustle.

For example, you can say how the boost in wellness gained from taking a couple of days off can lead to increased productivity and concentration the rest of the week.

That way, you’re looking after yourself, but you’re also helping to break down the barriers and put an end to the stigma of mental health in the workplace, too.

Originally published on www.businessinsider.com.

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