Where To Start:
As an employee, you can often find yourself in a difficult position when it comes to mental health. I know from a personal perspective I certainly did. Unfortunately, there is still far too much stigma attached to the term ‘Mental Health’ which can often leave people wondering whether or not that same stigma will be applied to them if they open up about how they might be struggling with their own. The general populace of people would say that opening-up should be easy, every company crams their HR policy about mental health and it is everywhere on social media. However, putting it everywhere doesn’t make it any easier to deal with especially when you have treated it as nothing for so long. From a personal perspective, I would not suggest talking to a colleague about it before a member of management. There are exceptions to this rule as you can build very strong relationships with your colleagues but in most cases, I would always say to make the initial discussion with your line manager or where possible your director or CEO depending on the size of your company. I suggest going straight to the top purely as a hierarchical structure of power would dictate that if they say you need time off, they can’t be overruled. As you may know, I work at Reach Interactive and I can say telling my CEO was the best thing that I ever did! Explaining my medication was overall a very calming conversation which admittedly had me very worked up beforehand. Now I feel as though I have nothing to explain myself for if I need to take a mental health day! Understandably this may not be the case for everyone as I work at a relatively small office, but it is definitely a route to consider!
After the Discussion:
I put ‘discussion’ because that is what it should be, you need to be straight with what you are saying but you also need to work with your employer so they can help you. Whilst no business is worth your mental health, it is important to understand that they have a business to run so whilst they can’t fire you, you may need to adjust your working hours if it will be regular to an extra hour here and there, or if it is infrequent then your employer might just like to have some time to arrange cover for when this is needed!
After speaking with your line manager or senior staff where applicable, it is up to you with the route that you take. You may like to disclose with your colleagues how you are feeling, in my experience mine were more than helpful and supportive, and yours will likely follow the same pattern. However, you might not feel like you are at this position yet and that is fine too! Your manager cannot tell anyone about what you discussed other than his or her boss if needed, but wider general discussion about it will contradict with HR policy so I wouldn’t worry about office gossip!
Regardless of whether you decide to tell your colleagues, the next best thing I can suggest is to continue your day as normal and act as though the conversation didn’t happen. Picking yourself up and moving forward is often the first step to overcoming the unfortunate circumstance you find yourself in and such pressing on can be a good place to start. Remember, if you get the go-ahead to take mental health days, it is important to take them as and when you need them. Whilst your manager or otherwise should never accuse you of false pretences, it is vital that you do not take advantage of this by taking them and spending it doing other things like having a mad party with friends!
What To Spend Those Days Off Doing:
This is always a subject paragraph, the things I suggest you may not feel are appropriate to spend your mental health day off or you simply may not like to do those activities, regardless, it is important to spend it in a relaxed environment, away from the working atmosphere. Personally, I would enjoy getting lost in a book or going to the gym. The gym can be a great place to relieve any work stress and exercise releases positive endorphins that will make the day off feel well spent. If you have a furry best friend that barks, you could always take them to the dog park or find another way to spend all day with them rather than going on the same walk you always go on. Your dog will appreciate it and it will be a great way of forgetting everything bad that’s going on at work or in general, even if it is just for the day allowing you to see the next full energised!
Remembering You’re Not Alone
A final note to remind you, the reader, that if you are suffering, you’re not alone! In 2020 everyone is more willing to help than ever before and because of this now is the best time to speak out and open up, especially to your employer!