How About a Mental Health Day?

I used to feel guilty taking a day off work to read a book or to play volleyball – but not so much after I had an anxiety attack in an especially stressful day at the office.  I ended up wondering what I was doing to myself…as I lay on my doctor’s examination table (to which I was becoming used to due to stress).

Soon after that, I changed departments and worked with a boss who allowed flexible schedules.  However, this and five sick days weren’t enough to keep other employees’ and my stress levels at bay so whenever I felt stress reaching a certain level I’d take a sick day – I called them “sick-of-my-job” days.

Companies should have a mental health day allowance or add it to employees’ sick day allowance.  We hear of people going postal, completely losing it to the point of killing their co-workers. People have heart attacks and anxiety attacks due to stress at work and still there’s not much change in the way companies help their employees handle stress.

What’s the policy at your job?  Do you take mental health days?

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Freelance writer, translator and copyeditor currently living in Amsterdam. Former stressed-out marketing and public relations person in NYC. Likes languages but really doesn't like flowers. Contact through


  1. Paul on the 15th September

    Yea, the policy of my employer is as long as you work your 40 hours a week and an in the office at least half of the time when everyone else is…Do what you need to do. And yes this is in the US 😉

  2. Chris Mower on the 15th September

    I don’t often get sick, but when I do get sick it’s usually because of stress. So when I feel it building up, I take a “mental health day” before the volcano erupts. My work is pretty good about letting employees take a day off if they’re feeling that way.

  3. Luko on the 15th September

    After coming very close to a breakdown after months of stress and long hours, my policy is take the time off early and take the time off often – better for you and your boss than the alternative.

  4. Melanie Brooks on the 16th September

    My mother used to let me take a mental health day in high school when I was at the end of my rope. I find that today, taking a mental health day when I really need it keeps me from getting physically sick. When I get too stressed out I usually end up coming down with a sinus infection.

  5. Nic on the 16th September

    We don’t have “mental health days” and I can’t use my sick time because I use all of my sick time on being sick and doctors visits. And I have had so many doctors visits in the last year because of medical problems that are very closely related to stress. I guess I can’t come out and say these problems are definitely the direct result of stress, but I also didn’t have any of these problems until my work life went nutso. I very much believes its the reason.
    So basically I’m in between a rock and a hard place. I can’t take mental health days because I use up all my sick time due to stress related illness. Pretty sure the higher ups don’t give a damn, either.

    • Ana da Silva on the 19th September

      That was the whole thing with me, always at the doctor and finally I chose a doctor who had an Eastern medicine background. Instead of first asking me about my medical history he asked if I liked my job – I said I hated it. He did a bunch of tests anyway but it was clear what the problem was from the beginning.

  6. Angela on the 16th September

    I spread out my vacation days throughout the year to help. I get two weeks of vacation per yer, but I only use a day or two at a time. This way I can spread them out, plan ahead for a break after a big stressful project, and make sure I get days off even on months where there aren’t already holidays. This helps keep the stress level down. When you realize you have a vacation day coming up it gives you a little burst of joy. Of course there’s times where you need emergency mental health days, and that’s when you may dip into sick pay time off.

  7. Andy on the 17th September

    So… my take:

    If you are otherwise physically and mentally “healthy” (i.e. in the 95% percentile “normal) and your work causes you to “break down” or take “mental health days”, that job is not for you.

    Either there is something inherently wrong with the work practice (not unlikely) or it’s just not cut out for you. Switch jobs! Why put yourself through something which you’ve already identified as unhealthy for you?

    If doing something makes you spontaneously bleed from your ears, you probably wouldn’t take a break, clean up the mess and continue? Most people would refrain from doing it!

    • Ana da Silva on the 19th September

      That makes total sense but it’s not always easy to do, especially in this economy. Eventually I was able to leave my job and now I’m doing something I actually love to do. I know many people who aren’t so lucky and with medical bills, rent and other bills piling up they find themselves in a corner.

  8. Elizabeth on the 17th September

    Lately I’ve been suffering from several stress-related medical conditions. In the past year I’ve dealt with TMJ, horrible headaches and eye twitching. What do you know, after I took a vacation these maladies mysteriously disappeared… for a while.

    I’ll try to be more proactive about taking care of myself. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  9. Kyle on the 19th September

    I run a small web design company with a partner and 3 employees, and the general attitude is that you can work whenever and wherever you want to as long as your deadlines are met and you are available in some way (phone, email, skype) during business hours.

    Seems to work for us and people are productive and happy (myself included!) I find I actually get more out of my team members this way.

  10. Marga on the 27th February

    I always thought I’m alone with this. I don’t often get sick too but when I’m stressed I want to get out of the work zone and be a kid and rest. Just recently I play plants vs. zombie just to get out of the politics problem and concentrate on protecting my lawn. I’m so happy this website exist!

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