of the mind

Alright, so I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, and it seems like tonight will be the night! By “a while” I don’t mean just this last week (the absence of posts thus far this week is a result of me being busy/lazy). I was actually thinking about this a few weeks ago, and then never got around to actually writing about it because I kept forgetting about it when I sat down to write a post (I’m not a very organised sort of blogger, as you might be able to tell from the erratic posting of random topics), or I kept putting it off.

Where I work, I have a lot of colleagues. As such, I assume that it is by chance that, in any given week, at least one person will be feeling unwell in some way, or will actually call in sick and take the day off. Ok, that’s probably a bit dramatic or exaggerated, but that’s what it’s felt like recently. I’m not complaining or whining – that’s just how it is. Like I said, it’s probably more by chance or probability or something.

Well, not to gloat or anything, but I’ve never had a sick day from work in the three years that I’ve been full-time here (let’s hope I don’t jinx it now!). It’s one of the downsides of having a good immune system and not engaging in dangerous activities: I’ll never get paid the sick leave I’m technically entitled to. But, whatever, I don’t really care about that.

A friend then suggested, helpfully, that I could take a “mental health day”, which is like taking the day off to recover from a physical ailment, except that it’s actually, well, a mental ailment. Say, for example, if you just feel really unmotivated to do anything, or if you’re just really frustrated and you feel like if you go to work, you’ll go insane, or maybe have a breakdown, then you’d take a “mental health day”. I actually like the idea of it, and think it’s as valid a reason as any to take the day off (particularly if you’re on the verge of a breakdown).

But when I think about the practical side of actually doing this, I’m not so sure that it would be so well-received by upper management…

Since everyone’s taken their turns being sick, I’ve kind of developed a mental catalogue of reasons why people call in sick (or get sent home sick, as the case may be). Being in such proximity to doctors’ rooms and a hospital, anything that’s infectious becomes an issue that could lead to someone having the day off: cold/flu, food poisoning, eye infections, etc. A lot of people reckon that diarrhoea is a good excuse to use because no one is going to want to ask for more details about that. And then, of course, there’s pain: migraines, back pain, cramping, etc.

Whatever the excuse, most of the time it’s legitimate; I’m not doubting that. The issue is that if someone called up the HR manager one day and said “I don’t think I can make it in to work today because I just have zero drive to do anything, and even the thought of getting out of bed seems meaningless” – I don’t think that’d go down too well… Not that the HR guy is cold-hearted or whatever, but I’d be surprised if he’s ever taken that sort of a call from an employee.

But despite all the controversies (Is depression over-diagnosed? Are anti-depressants and anxiolytics over-prescribed? Do drug companies make up variations/sub-types of psychiatric conditions in order to sell more drugs?), any educated human being could understand and accept that depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc are all real conditions. Then why do people have to use another excuse (a physical ailment) when they take a “mental health day”? (The friend who originally suggested it is not the only one who thinks it’s a good idea – just don’t be so upfront about the reason.)

And I know that Major Depression is pretty serious, and of course there’s a difference between a clinically diagnosable condition and just “feeling down” now and then. But just because it doesn’t fit the duration criteria for diagnosis, doesn’t make it less valid – you could still fulfill all of the other criteria/descriptors.

If anyone reading this thinks that I’m going to try to use this logic to rort the sick leave system, rest assured that I don’t have any intentions of doing so, nor do I encourage or condone it (since abusing the system would belittle these mental health conditions). These are just random thoughts about the disparity between mental and physical illness.

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