Taking mental health days instead sick days

Sioux Falls, S.D. - Strong mental health is essential for a healthy work environment. One Michigan woman gained national headlines last Thursday when she emailed a message to her boss saying she was taking a day to focus on her mental health. We all have mental health, made up of both good days and bad days. It’s important to take time for yourself, but for most people, this means taking a sick day instead of a mental health day.

“We want to take care of our mental health just like we take care of our physical health,” Executive Director of NAMI South Dakota, Wendy Giebink said.

NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, says one in five people live with a mental health condition.

“So it’s very common and yet about 50 percent of people go without treatment,” Giebink said.

Wendy Giebink is the Senior Director of NAMI South Dakota. She said good mental health is essential for the workplace.

“Some days if we're feeling a lot of stress or anxiety, it might be a good idea to take some time and take care of yourself,” Giebink said.

But, many people don't talk about mental health or mental illness.

“It’s unfortunate that its stigmatized mental health is a very real part of being human,” Sanford Health employee, William Gould said.

William Gould works at Sanford Health. He said a large majority of the workforce there spends their time caring for other people and they don't always take care of themselves.

“We all have stressors in our lives in our personal lives and in our work lives and it’s really important that we be able to take the time to recharge,” Gould said.

Gould said taking those days are important but he notices more people take mental health days and call them sick days instead.

“I think again goes to the stigma that we have with mental health in our society today,” Gould said.

But, he said slowly it's becoming more normalized.

“More and more overtime, in my time in human resources and in health care, I see more people seem to be open to talking about, safely talk about mental health and overall well-being,” Gould said.

Gould said the more we talk about mental health and wellness in our communities, the better off we will be.

Giebink said it's important for employers to educate themselves about mental illness and mental health.\