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Mental Health

The Debate Over the Value of Mental Health Days

— April 10, 2024

Mental health days can increase productivity, but only if they’re used as they’re intended.

Most people would agree that the increasing openness regarding mental health is a positive development. Where it was previously not okay to discuss mental health in a public setting, now it is commonplace – and that change has likely helped many people deal with the issues they are facing more productively. One notable change that has come about in the last few years is the use of mental health days. Whether for a professional taking a day away from work, or a child staying home from school, mental health days have become more and more accepted. Whether or not that is a good development, however, depends on your perspective.

Only a short time ago, it would be rare for employers to offer mental health days as a form of sick leave, or for schools to recognize such a reason for an absence. Times have changed, however, and people now have more latitude to take this kind of break for work or school in order to seek out a better headspace. That is a wonderful thing on its face, and it’s progress that should be applauded.

The Debate Over the Value of Mental Health Days
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

So, what’s not to like? For one thing, there are some who feel that allowing for mental health days – especially in children – could actually be detrimental. The idea that a child would need to take a day away from school to improve mental health indicates that there is something negative or undesirable about going to school in the first place. This could potentially further an adversarial relationship with education, rather than promoting it as a place where all are welcome to learn and grow together.

From the adult perspective, there are worries that mental health days might be used to avoid difficult situations – taking the easy way out, in other words. This could allow individuals to develop bad habits and could potentially even further mental health problems by allowing people to get around things that really need to be confronted. When used improperly, the mental health days that are allowed might promote habits that won’t end up being in the person’s best interests in the long run. It’s a delicate balance, as people need to be allowed the space that is necessary to attend to mental health issues, but also running too far in the other direction might lead to other, related problems.

As with so many topics, there is room for nuance and disagreement in the realm of mental health days. Most likely, they aren’t the best thing that has ever happened to mental health, and they probably aren’t all bad, either. The reality may lie somewhere in the middle, where they can be used strategically and for the right reasons. This is an area of work and school that is going to continue to develop and evolve over the years to come and hopefully a healthy middle ground will arise that allows people the time and space they need while still keeping life on track.


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