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5 Benefits of Taking Mental Health Days Off

March 16, 2022

You could have probably guessed it, but mental health issues have grown dramatically over the past few years. The main reasons?

  1. COVID
  2. Economic & financial concerns
  3. Society being generally a bit of a shit show lately

Just how bad has mental health gotten in Australia?

Well, you’d be hard pressed to not be feeling the brunt of things, but some of these recent statistics explain just how bad mental health has gotten in Australia:

  1. Almost 21 million MBS-subsidised mental health-related services were processed in an 18 month period across 2020 and 2021
  2. Close to half of these MBS mental health services were delivered by telehealth — leading to close to 1 billion dollars (<insert Dr. Evil>) in benefits paid out for telehealth alone
  3. Calls to Lifeline were up by over 33% in the 4 weeks to 19 September 2021 against a year earlier
  4. Calls to Beyond Blue were up almost 21% in the 4 weeks to 19 September 2021 against a year earlier

Okay, so things are pretty bad — does that mean I can use sick leave for my mental health?

Although there’s some greyness to it that we’ll discuss below, in short, your employer can’t discriminate against you due to any mental health issues you might be experiencing. In other words, they can try, but you’re best off referring them to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) or they might end up in trouble themselves in these scenarios.

According to the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman, you (the employee) can use any paid personal leave you’re entitled to if you can’t work because of any “injury or personal illness”. This can also include stress, but stress leave is not its own category.

The best bet for any employee is to just to be as transparent as you can be with the mental health day off — luckily mental health stigma is decreasing significantly, and these conversations are getting a lot easier. For employers, the best bet is to allow mental health days off to avoid any backlash, both at an employee and Fair Work level.

Okay great — so what 5 things will taking a sick day off for help with?

Although there are a range of benefits, we’ve researched the top 5 that will hopefully work together and all be realised on any days you take off for your brain to fix itself right up (even if only in the short term).

#1 — You’ll get better sleep

Alright, we’re a little biased but sleep is great. There are a number of studies linking improved mental health to better sleep, and better sleep to improved mental health — a positive cycle. On the flipside, with bad mental health, especially linked to job stress, comes bad sleep — and with bad sleep comes even worse mental health outcomes, such as depression or anxiety.

In other words, taking a mental health day or two off can seriously help improve sleep and in turn improve mental health outcomes.

#2 — You will have improved job and life satisfaction

A study by the American Psychological Association found that taking a day off and properly disengaging from work — not ruminating about everything you have to get done, not taking calls or checking emails — will significantly improve overall life well-being.

And here’s the really interesting part — another study found that higher job satisfaction leads to better mental health outcomes, indicating a positive cycle. But without that first step of taking a mental health day off, the positive cycle can’t even begin at all.

#3 — You will have a reduced risk of chronic health conditions

In Australia alone, the cost of managing chronic health conditions is around $38 billion dollars per year. Shocking we know.

To add to this, those living with mental health concerns are significantly more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions as a result. Another vicious cycle is that in the same way that mental health contributes to chronic physical issues, chronic physical issues then lead to poorer mental health outcomes.

By taking time off to check in on your own mental health and fix yourself up from time to time, you will be doing your part to reduce your own risk of chronic physical health issues — and you get paid for it if it’s a paid day off, lucky duck.

#4 — You will quite literally live longer

Your chance of dying from a stroke and heart disease due to overworking has increased by over 29 percent since the year 2000 — meaning your general likelihood of living longer will increase if you take a day off. Especially if you take that day off to relax, and recalibrate. Maybe chuck on a Netflix movie. The good stuff.

#5 — Your productivity will improve

Research from around the world shows that poorer mental health leads to poorer productivity — meaning that if you’re able to take a day off to just chuck your cucumber face mask on or whatever your mighty equivalent is (maybe give your Mum a call and drink at least 8 glasses of water), you’re probably going to smash out work the next little while as a result. And you’ll feel better, and less stressed.

So put simply — if you need a mental health day off, don’t hesitate. It’s absolutely in yours and your employers best interest and it will benefit everybody in the long run.

If you need an online medical certificate, it’s a simple process to get one through MinuteHealth:

📱 Head here

📝 Fill in a short form — it asks for key details about your medical issue

👨‍⚕️ Consult with your own Partner Doctor — they’ll take the medical information you provide and review within 24-48 hours

📥 Get your medical certificate to your inbox — you’ll receive an SMS and an e-mail with your medical certificate ready to download

It’s important to note that the independent Partner Doctor will read your health notes and make an informed decision on whether to provide you with a medical certificate or not. The Health Practitioner does not work for us, and we’ve created MinuteHealth to facilitate a convenient, ongoing connection with them.