Mental health days are becoming more and more popular, but what about people who need to take time off for outpatient treatment? Can you still get time off from work for mental health? The answer is yes! In this blog post, we will go over the difference between a mental health day and taking time off for outpatient treatment. We’ll also discuss how to talk to your employer about your mental health, how much detail you need to go into, and what your rights are as an employee. If you’re struggling with your mental health, know that you’re not alone and it’s ok to put your mental health first.
What are Mental Health Days?
Mental health days are a day when you take off from work to focus on your mental health. This can be used as a preventative measure to avoid a mental health crisis, or it can be used to recover from a mental health crisis. Taking a mental health day does not mean that you have to disclose your diagnosis to your employer. You can simply say that you are not feeling well and need a day to rest. It’s the same as taking a sick day and you can request off in the same manner.
The benefits of taking a mental health day are that you can take the time to relax, de-stress, and focus on your mental health. This can help prevent a mental health crisis from happening, or it can help you recover from a mental health crisis – hello burnout. It’s important to remember that you know yourself best. In today’s go, go, go culture, taking a mental health day can seem, well, unnecessary, but your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or just plain exhausted, it’s ok to take a step back and focus on how you’re feeling mentally.
I Might Need Something a Little Longer…
Enter outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is a more intensive form of mental health care that usually requires missing work. Outpatient treatment can include things like therapy, medication management, and COPE (community support, peer support, and education). When you are in outpatient treatment, for example here at LAOP, you’ll come to our program during the day and return to the comfort of your home in the evenings. Like residential treatment, you will participate in group and individual therapies that focus on mental and behavioral health. If you’d like to learn more about Behavioral Health, we take a deep dive in our blog, How Behavioral Therapy Works – Treatment Types & Techniques.
Taking time off for outpatient treatment is a bit different than taking a mental health day. Outpatient treatment generally requires more time off from work than a mental health day. This is because outpatient treatment typically involves daily therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, and other treatments. When taking time off for outpatient treatment, you will need to disclose your situation to your employer. This is so that they can provide accommodations for you, such as flexible scheduling or working from home.
It’s important to remember that you have the right to privacy when it comes to your mental health. Your employer does not need to know all the details of your diagnosis, but they do have the right to know that you are receiving treatment for a health condition. As with most cases, your medical information will be kept confidential. Meaning your coworkers will not know any details of your leave and your supervisor will only be given the necessary details.
Does This Also Include Time Off for Stress and Anxiety?
Yes, both mental health days and extended time off for outpatient treatment can be taken for stress and anxiety. Some other mental health concerns that you can take time off for include:
• Bipolar Disorder
• Eating Disorders
• Substance Abuse
So, How Do I Talk to My Employer About My Mental Health?
Telling your employer about your mental health can be a daunting task, but it is important to remember that you have rights when it comes to your mental health. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination based on mental illness. This means that your employer cannot fire you, demote you, or refuse to hire you because of your mental illness. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with mental illness. These accommodations can include things like flexible scheduling, working from home, or taking leave for mental health treatment.
If you work for a larger company, one with 50 or more employees, you may also be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law permits eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for a mental health condition. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and have clocked at least 1,250 hours during that 12-month period.
When you’re ready to talk to your employer about your mental health, it’s important to be prepared. This means knowing what accommodations you need and what rights you have. It may also be beneficial to have a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, write a letter explaining your diagnosis and treatment plan. This letter can be used to provide documentation to your employer. Try to schedule a meeting with HR or your boss in advance. This will give you both time to prepare and also shows that you’re taking the conversation seriously.
When disclosing your mental health to your manager or HR department, be honest and direct. You can start the conversation by saying something like, “I wanted to let you know that I am receiving treatment for a mental health condition. I would appreciate it if we could discuss some accommodations that would help me maintain my mental health.” Be upfront about how your mental health condition is impacting your ability to do your job. For example, if you are having trouble concentrating at work, tell your employer. This will help them understand why you need accommodations, such as flexible scheduling or working from home. Some treatment programs may also have hours set aside for you to focus on work or school.
It’s also important to remember that you are not alone in this. Many people struggle with mental health conditions, and many employers are understanding and accommodating. If you are worried about how your employer will react, you can always speak to a mental health professional about your concerns.
How Should I Spend this Time off?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It is entirely up to you how you spend your time off. Some people find it helpful to use their time off to focus on self-care. This can include things like getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. If you think a longer period of time off would be beneficial, you could participate in an outpatient treatment program like the one offered by The Los Angeles Outpatient Center.
At LAOP, your therapist will help you come up with a treatment plan and guide you through your mental health challenge. To learn more about what to expect from starting a mental health treatment program, read our blog Mental Health Treatment: When to Get it and Where to Go.
How Do I Return to Work After Taking Time off for Mental Health?
It can be difficult to return to work after taking time off for mental health reasons. As daunting as it is, it’s important to remember that everyone struggles with mental health at some point in their lives. Here are a few tips to help you ease back into work:
- Talk to your boss or HR representative before returning to work. They can help you create a plan that works for both you and your employer. Some possibilities may be incorporating half-days or a hybrid work schedule that allows you to work from home a few days out of the week.
- Take it slow at first. If possible, start with a reduced workload or shorter days. Remember, you took this time off for a reason. Jumping back into a packed schedule can lead to instant burnout or anxiety. Take it slow and don’t max out your to-do list right away.
- You can gradually increase your hours as you feel more comfortable.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your co-workers. They likely understand what you’re going through and can offer support and understanding. If you need to miss a meeting or need some help on a project, asking for help is the first step.
- Most importantly, be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. If you need to take another day off, don’t hesitate to do so. The better your health, the more productive and active you’ll be in the long run. We all need a paycheck, but you’ll never regret prioritizing your health.
Taking time off work for mental health is an important step in recovering from or managing a mental illness. If you’re feeling hesitant about taking the plunge, remember that your employer likely has a policy in place for this exact situation. And if they don’t, there are laws to protect you while you seek help. Whether you’re taking a mental health day or taking leave for a few weeks, you deserve to prioritize your mental health.
We hope that by sharing these tips, we have eased some of the stress around taking time off work for mental health. Remember, it’s not only good for you but also for your colleagues and employer! If you’d like to learn more about our program, please fill out our contact form. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have.