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NEW YORK — Have you ever felt nervous or afraid to take time off from work to look after your mental health?rr
Ms Marisa Kabas, a writer and political strategist who lives in New York City, recently posed a similar question on Twitter, inspired by Simone Biles, who bowed out of Olympic events this week to protect her mental health.rr
“It was so shocking to so many people,” Ms Kabas said Wednesday in an interview. “Because the whole mentality is, be strong and push through the pain.”rr
The tweet drew thousands of responses, many from employees who said they do not disclose the real reason they need time away from work, or feel pressured to lie about it because they are embarrassed. Others said they had never taken a mental health day.rr
As a freelancer who has written prolifically about her health problems, including anxiety and depression, Ms Kabas said she sometimes wakes up and decides, “I can’t do it today,” and takes the day off, a luxury she did not feel she had as an employee.rr
About three-quarters of people in the United States who work for private industry, state or local government have paid sick leave, but surveys suggest that a number of these employees are unlikely to use sick days for mental health reasons or are scared of being punished for doing so.rr
If you are among the hesitant, experts say it is time to start thinking about how to protect and prioritise your mental well-being, especially as millions of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic start returning to the office.rr
“You wouldn’t feel bad about taking time off when sick. You shouldn’t feel bad about taking some time off when you’re sad,” said Dr Natalie C Dattilo, a clinical health psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Your body needs a rest; your brain needs a break.”rr
How do you know if you need a ‘sad day’?rr
There is no official definition for a “sad day,” also known as a mental health day.rr
Typically, it is paid time off drawn from sick days (or personal days) to help employees who are not feeling like their usual selves, offering an opportunity to refresh their minds, do something meaningful or simply take a break from daily stressors.rr
The “sad day” is only a temporary fix and not meant to address deeper problems, but sometimes a little time away can make a big difference.rr
Your company may not specify that sick days can be used for this purpose, but “mental health is health,” said Schroeder Stribling, president and chief executive of the advocacy group Mental Health America. “The two are inseparable.”rr
The signs that you need to take time away from work may not necessarily be obvious, Ms Stribling said. Indicators include changes in your mood, productivity or ability to concentrate. You may also notice that you are less patient and more irritable than usual or are having trouble sleeping.