By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
Many years ago when I was employed first at a psychiatric hospital and then at two different comprehensive community mental health centers, I would occasionally call in sick. Some days I just didn’t have the emotional and physical energy to face all of my work responsibilities and obligations. I was also careful not to abuse or over-use this strategy.
Of course this idea originated when I was in high school. There were just some days I didn’t want to face what was before me. Sometimes that included a quiz or test I had not sufficiently studied for. Other times I just needed a break from one more day of the student school grind.
Too often I would ultimately end up actually getting sick. Apparently my guilt feelings would help me stay on an honest path. I also started to notice a pattern related to when I became ill. There were days or weeks preceding the onset of my health problem where I needed a physical, emotional and spiritual break from work. But my sense of responsibility and duty kept me going. Ultimately I learned to listen to those signals telling me I needed a break.
I longed to take a mental health day. But these organizations and agencies did not recognize such terminology. I remember thinking there was something off about working in the mental health field that did not acknowledge and allow for paid leave to support their employees need for mental health.
Eventually my maturation and transformation evolved to the point where I could take my mental health days. This is not what I told my boss or the HR department, but it was what I told myself. I knew I needed to be as mentally healthy and strong as I could in order to effectively and competently deal with my clients who were struggling with their own mental health issues.
I began to fantasize about working for an agency where I could occasionally call in and say, “I feel so good, happy and healthy today that I want to take this day for myself. I’m calling in well.”
Can you imagine such freedom and respect?
Eventually I worked for an agency that actually had such a policy for leave taking. Of course they didn’t call it self-proclaimed well days. But I was given three extra leave days a year in addition to my paid holiday time to use as I saw fit. I used them as my well days.
I feel so good today I don’t want to waste this day at work. Needless to say, my Mental Health & Happiness improved greatly.