One fine morning, Madalyn Parker, a web designer emailed her colleagues, stating that she needs a break from work for focusing on her mental health. Her supervisor responded positively, she was thanked for breaking down the stigma which is associated with mental illness. Since then, the topic of mental illness has become a widely discussed issue.

Mental health issues can arise in anyone, anytime and anywhere.

World Mental Health Day is celebrated on 10th October every year with the aim to raise awareness of mental health issues. The theme for the day,a couple of years back, was workplace well-being.

A positive working environment would not only improve productivity but also maintain an overall mental balance. On the other hand, a negative working environment would lead to both physical and mental problems, like substance abuse, absenteeism and low productivity. Some signs which suggest one of taking a break from work are- lack of concentration, tiredness, irritation with colleagues and managers; basically experiencing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
Three basic questions that one should ask himself/herself are:

• If I go to work, will it make me feel good or worse?
• Will I be able to perform well?
• Do I really need to be present in work today?

Raising mental health awareness through events in workplace is important; implementing policies and procedures like Employee Assistance Program can prove to be helpful. Most importantly, keeping the lines of communication open and frank is needed. The workers must feel the need and also be comfortable to discuss the issues disturbing their mental and physical health.

Alongside workplace, focus must be given to academic space also. Students also face great academic pressure as much emphasis is given on their academic output. Stress affects performance and thus, a student should be allowed to take leave when he/she is mentally exhausted.
When someone is in the middle of dealing with a serious mental health problem, sometimes going to work or study related places can be too much to handle. Considering mental health, it is important to have certain days off to get back to one’s rejuvenated state.
According to Mental Health Law, one can be granted Mental-Health related leave. Laws may vary from state to state but, mental health leaves is a must and focus should be given to include such leaves everywhere.

Nothing comes before your mental health. Work, studies, people, in short obligations.
If you are not well yourself, how can you take care of others?
If we can get a leave for physical illness, then why not mental distress?

Being an Indian, I raise this question more, for as a student and now as someone who works, I also feel some days the urgent need to take a break to deal with some emotional crisis that I am dealing with. But here, such mental health leaves are not seen legal, and is merely seen as an excuse. How will you gain optimal productivity if the person is dejected? Before you throw the rules and mandatory laws to someone for working/studying in a place, keep a few regulations also for tackling the gloomy days.

Mental health is a part of overall health. So, let’s bring focus to mental illness and its effects on people’s quality of life and make an effort to reduce stigma. A mental health day can provide you with the much-required rest you have been needing.
Important note: it is important not to utilize mental health days for avoiding issues that we would be facing eventually.


Puja Roy is a health psychologist and is currently working as a counselor at the Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata. You can follow her here.