Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Taking a Mental Health Day

We've come a long way in terms of decreasing the stigma that surrounds mental health and illness, but we're far from it being gone completely. Our society places such a high importance on the biomedical model of health that to many still, physical illness seems more legitimate than mental illness. And while both can be equally distressing, there tends to be more sympathy given to those with physical illnesses, while mental illness is seen as a sign of weakness, as though it is something we should be able to overcome easily.

You may not agree with what I'm saying. You may think we've come a long way in empathizing with those with mental illness and we're much more understanding now. But ask yourself: would you ever call in to work and say that you won't be coming in because you're feeling very anxious? Because you're feeling so incredibly sad, you don't even want to get out of bed? Because something inside you feels incredibly wrong, even though you're completely stable physically? No. For the most of us, that isn't a reality. We'll call in and say we're feeling sick. That we have a fever and have been throwing up. Because that's something everyone can relate to and will understand how debilitating it is. You'll get a "okay, get some rest! Take care! Feel better soon!" and that will be it.  And while I can't speak for every employer out there, calling in sick saying you're feeling anxious or depressed will likely get a response of "pull yourself together, you're fine". Consequently, we feel obligated to either lie and say we're physically sick, or "suck it up" and go to work/school/etc. only to feel worse.

Similarly, no one says anything negative if a coworker takes some time off because of an injury, needing surgery or because of a serious physical injury. However there's always talk about the coworker who took time off to deal with depression, or any other mental illness really: "they're faking it", "they're just lazy", "how convenient, maybe I should be 'depressed' too".

This is something that has always bothered me. If we're encouraged to take such good care of our physical health, why not our mental health? And this is not something only for those suffering from a mental illness. This is for everyone. I am a firm believer in taking a "Mental Health Day". So much is expected of us and we are constantly so stressed. We put all of this pressure on ourselves to perform at the best of our abilities that we don't take the time to just sit back and be kind to ourselves.

Here is what I propose to you. One day, when you are feeling particularly stressed, run down, overwhelmed, what be it, take a mental health day. Check in with yourself. Let go of some of your responsibilities for that day. If there's something you really don't want to do, don't do it. Take a warm bath, read a book, do some yoga, watch a funny movie. Take care of yourself. We take so many measures to ensure our physical health, now do the same for your mind.