You’re cool with calling in sick if your nose is leaking, but what if your head just needs some time off? Does the idea of taking a mental health day send you on a guilt trip?
“It’s important that employers and businesses understand that people may need time off for a mental health issue, just as they may need time off when they have a cold or physical injury,” says Matti Clements, director and senior psychologist at Mental Edge Consulting.
Clements says stigma about mental illness extends to the workplace, which is why we tend to lie if we’re taking leave for an emotional reason.
“I’m a big believer that mental illnesses should be treated the same as physical injuries and that if we bring the two closer together in thinking, then we will have a better acceptance and understanding of how to manage mental health issues,” Clements adds.
Lance Picioane, former AFL player, and founder of mental health foundation Love Me Love You, knows what it’s like to struggle with a mental illness, and shares how to create mentally healthy work habits:
1. Switch off to reduce your work pressure
“Whether you call it a mental health day or not is up to you, but it’s important to understand what that break means to you – this means being able to switch off from the pressure and challenges that work can be for people,” says Picioane. “It doesn’t even have to be a day – it can just be an afternoon or later morning. It’s having that ability to say, I’m doing something for me here, so that I can give 100 per cent when I’m working.”
2. Slip mental health time-outs in every work day
Picioane advises making sure you always take your lunch break, and to take 15-minute breaks throughout the day for self-care hits like having a quiet cup of tea, taking a walk, having a chat or reading a magazine (preferably Women’s Health, ha!).
3. Be selective when choosing who to dish to
Only open up to colleagues you really trust. But do open up. “The more conversations we have, the more […] people are understanding about the challenges individuals are going through,” says Picioane. “It’s not just me that’s going through stuff, but if I put the conversation out there, I guarantee that there’s going to be five other people in the workplace that are going through something just as challenging. In a way, it’s opening that conversation together.”
Clements agrees that the way to decrease stigma and increase awareness and acceptance around mental health issues is to start convos. “Mental health issues and illness and wellbeing are not the domain of only a psychologist or a doctor; everyone should be having these conversations.”
Matti Clements is a guest speaker at Love Me Love You’s 2016 Mental Health Breakfast. For more info, visit lovemeloveyou.org.au