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Calling in Sick for Mental Health: What to Say to Your Employer?

If you have the flu or another physical illness, you probably don’t have a problem telling your boss that you need to stay home for a day or two in order to heal. But do you know what to say when calling in sick for mental health?

Why Would I Call in Sick for Mental Health?

Before you try to figure out what to say when calling in sick for mental health, you may need to spend some time thinking about why you would make such a call.

For the longest time, the only “legitimate” reason for taking a sick day was a verifiable medical condition or a serious injury. If you were feeling sad, anxious, or emotionally exhausted, you were expected to put on a business-appropriate happy face and get yourself to work.

Sadly, many people still feel this way. (And if the hustle culture posts we’ve seen are to be believed, there is a not insignificant number of folks who believe that if you’ve got the strength to send an “I’m sick,” message, then you’re strong enough to work.)

On the thankful side of this debate, more and more people are beginning to realize that taking the occasional mental health day can be good for employees, and for the organizations that employ them. 

There are no set-in-stone rules for what does and doesn’t qualify as justification for calling in sick for mental health reasons. But here are a few scenarios that may require you to take a day off:

  • You have an anxiety disorder, a depressive disorder, or another mental illness, and you are experiencing particularly severe symptoms that would prevent you from fulfilling the duties of your job today.
  • You recently began taking a prescription medication for a mental health disorder, and you are struggling with the medicine’s initial effects.
  • The only time you could schedule an appointment with your therapist or counselor is during your work hours.
  • You are having a hard time due to the death of a loved one, the end of a relationships, or another traumatic experience.
  • You’ve been dealing with excessive stress or pressure at work, and you just need to step away from it all for a day.
  • As we alluded to a few paragraphs ago, you are struggling with sadness, anxiety, or emotional exhaustion.

In short, if you feel like your current state of mind would prevent you from doing your job, or if going to work would exacerbate a psychological challenge that you’re currently working through, you may want to take a sick day.

What to Say When Calling in Sick for Mental Health

Now that you’ve determined that you are justified in taking a sick day, it’s time to decide what to say when calling in sick for mental health.

As was the case with the reasons for taking a sick day that we discussed in the previous section, there is no hard-and-fast list of things you should definitely say or topics you should absolutely avoid when contacting your boss. 

To choose what to say when calling in sick for mental health, you should consider factors such as your workplace’s policies, your relationship with your supervisor, and your own preferences. Here are a few things to think about:

Do You Need to Give a Reason?

Some employers require their employees to provide a reason why they won’t be at work. Other organizations simply require that employees notify their supervisor or another designated representative that they can’t work. 

If you don’t have to give a reason, don’t give one. Simply say that you are taking a sick day.

Is Your Boss Trustworthy?

If you have a good relationship with your boss, you may feel comfortable telling them that you can’t work because you’re having a rough day in terms of your mental health. 

If you believe that your boss would respond negatively or violate your trust, you may want to avoid the details and just say you’re not feeling well enough to work today.

Can You Plan Ahead?

It may be easier to get the day off if you avoid last-minute notifications. Giving your boss a heads-up that you need to take a day or two in the near future may be less disruptive than letting them know in the hours before you’re supposed to be at work.

Your planning can also include what you are going to say before you initiate the call. If you’re concerned that you might get tongue-tied or accidentally say something you will regret, write a short script. 

Don’t say more than you have to say. Here are a few examples:

  • I’m calling to let you know that I need to take a sick day today. I hope to be back at work tomorrow, and I will call you again if that changes.
  • I’ve been struggling with my mental health lately, and I need to take a few days off sometime soon so I can begin to address the challenges I’ve been having.
  • I have been having a hard time managing stress and balancing my workload. As a result, my mental health has begun to suffer. I’d like to take a few days off to address these concerns.

Find Mental Health Treatment in Nashville, TN

If you have developed a mental health disorder, the occasional day off will not be enough to resolve your symptoms. In cases like this, you may need professional help. Arbor Wellness offers personalized residential and outpatient services for adults who have been living with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Features of our programming include customized services, multiple levels of care, and an unwavering commitment to patient safety. To learn more, or to schedule an intake appointment, please visit our admissions page or call us today.

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