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Mental Health Days in the Workplace: Still a Stigma?

Do you ever feel inclined to take a day off from work when you’re not legitimately sick? We all have those “down days.” Days where we may feel stressed, emotional or upset about a personal circumstance. Days where the workplace may not be the best environment and productivity is suppressed.  

I can recall taking a day off here and there from high school and labeling it as my “mental health day.” I simply needed a day to recharge my batteries, to reboot, to do a mental cleanse, so to speak. But here’s the catch; I never genuinely felt comfortable relaying that to a teacher. And nowadays, I don’t exactly feel keen conveying such to an employer.

While there’s been an abundance of progress in attempting to de-stigmatize mental health issues, there’s still a bit of residue lingering regarding mental health, in general. 

At least that’s what I theorize since I feel better emailing my boss about a sinus infection instead of needing a mental health day. For some reason, I tend to assume the rationale falls short on paper. For some reason, I feel strange being forthright about the fact that I’m having anxiety about something, and I just need to take a day to deal. For some reason, explanations regarding an emotional state feel like they fall short, like they’re not as valid as a physiological ailment.

And interestingly enough, a 2017 article in Business Insider, reiterates this feeling. “85 Percent of People Still Feel There’s a Stigma Attached to Talking About Mental Health Issues at Work,” features a study conducted in the UK that surveyed employees about mental health in the workplace. As it turns out, there certainly are employees who feel uncomfortable discussing mental health and taking days off due to a mental health related reason.  

“The survey was conducted among 1,000 employed adults in the UK, more than a quarter (26%) of whom had taken a day off work due to stress or another mental health problem, and lied about the reason,” the article noted.

However, this past July, another article in the Insider showcased a story about Madalyn Parker; a woman who took mental health days off from work and who candidly said so in an email. The response from her boss was indeed a positive one. 

“I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this,” her CEO, Ben Congleton, said. “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 organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can bring our whole selves to work.”

Congleton’s email renders optimism — for myself and for others like me. And yet, not all employers embody this mentality.

There’s probably still a ways to go in incorporating the mental health day at work. I can’t help but think how relieving that would be; that those kinds of days can be natural. That those kinds of days can be part of our mainstream vocabulary.

Mental Health Days in the Workplace: Still a Stigma?

Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her collection of personal essays, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” can both be found on Amazon. Lauren's latest E-Book, "Never Far Behind," a collection of poetry, is available on Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. She loves to be followed on social media, including her Facebook Writing Page,

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APA Reference
Suval, L. (2018). Mental Health Days in the Workplace: Still a Stigma?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 12 Nov 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.