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The Benefits (and Risks) of the Mental-Health Day

Dec 17, 2018

Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 2018
The Benefits (and Risks) of the Mental-Health Day

More people are experiencing mental-health problems at work—stresses that often worsen around the holidays. While employees with mental illness have traditionally kept quiet about it for fear of being stigmatized, some are finding new ways to discuss their needs with bosses and colleagues.


Like any other sick time, a mental-health day can cover a range of problems, from simple fatigue or burnout to more serious problems like chronic depression or an anxiety disorder.


Some 18.9 percent of Americans report having mental illness in the past year, up from 17.7 percent a decade ago, federal data show. Depression and other mental-health problems are the top reason employees call for help for ComPsych, a Chicago-based employee-assistance provider, according to a recent analysis of annual calls. Stress and anxiety recently overtook relationship problems as the No. 2 issue, outpacing such issues as child-behavior problems and drug or alcohol addiction.


Employees in their 20s report higher rates of stress, anxiety and depression than other age groups, ComPsych says. And younger workers are more likely to speak openly about it than older ones.


More employers are freeing managers from the need to decide whether employees’ excuses are acceptable by replacing sick-day policies with paid personal days employees can use for any reason. Some 36 percent of employers offer this kind of time off, up from 22 percent in 2014, according to a 2018 survey of employers by SHRM.