Mind & Body

How to ask your boss for a mental health day

Feeling overwhelmed at work? It might be daunting to talk to your boss about it, but it’s important we start de-stigmatising taking mental health days.

While everyone feels anxious and worn out by work from time to time, there are some days where it’s just too much and the mere thought of facing your boss or colleagues is overwhelming.

In the past, we’d ‘cry wolf’ and say we’d been struck down by a 24-hour stomach bug, or we’d been up all night vomiting.

Yes, the Australian tradition of ‘chucking a sickie’ has long been a thinly veiled excuse for getting out of work when you just need a day or two to mentally reset, but experts say it’s time to destigmatise the mental health day.

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“The hardest part about talking about mental health is that it can be a complicated condition that usually can’t be seen or heard and can’t be quickly treated by a trip to the chemist,” says Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno.

As it’s not a physical ailment–though mental health can manifest in physical ways–it can be difficult to communicate to an employer who holds the ‘if I can’t see it, it isn’t real’ mentality.

The importance of a mental health day

But taking a day off to allocate to destress, relax, or just distance yourself from your place of work can offer a myriad of benefits, like improved focus, productivity, and overall happiness. And doesn’t every employer want that?

“Talking to your boss about mental health concerns can feel like an incredibly daunting task. It can be hard enough talking to friends and loved ones about mental health, so you’re not alone if you’re feeling hesitation about broaching the subject,” says Sokarno.

“The important thing to know is you don’t need to provide any details or justify your request, simply letting your boss know that you need to take a day or two off for mental health reasons is enough.”

She adds: “If it helps, you can let your boss know that you have planned around this day and having some time off isn’t going to impede on your productivity or workload.”

Easier said than done?

If you’re not comfortable with citing your mental health as the reason for your day off, then don’t. Simply say that you can’t come in due to personal reasons, or that you’re unwell. You don’t need to provide anyone, not even your boss, with more than the bare-bone details.

Sokarno says: “Depending on your relationship with your boss, you may feel more comfortable being open and honest about what you’re going through – but either way, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to give more information or further details.”

Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.