While the United States is slowly becoming more open about discussing mental health, there is still an underlying stigma that deters many with mental illnesses from talking openly about their experiences. This is doubly true in the workplace. Employers give their staff a select number of sick days in case of physical health problems such as the flu or a bad cold. Unfortunately, employees suffering from mental illness are hesitant to take sick days for their mental well-being. This is a real issue, especially since a recent study showed 18% of employees surveyed had experienced a mental health issue in the past month leading up to the study. Unlike a temporary physical illness, a mental health disorder can require time to go to therapy appointments, a need for a quieter workspace, or even alterations to a work schedule. It is important that people who suffer from mental illness know how to approach their employers with information about their condition and their needs.
Before speaking to anyone at work, it would be wise to speak about the decision with a mental health professional, like a therapist. This person can help you come up with talking points and direction, so you can go to work knowing exactly what you need. When addressing your direct manager, keep in mind the relationship you two have. If it is a close, more friendly relationship, feel free to be slightly more open about details. If, however, you do not feel comfortable revealing certain aspects of your mental illness, do not feel pressured to jeopardize your own privacy; you can be more vague with the details.
Also, it is important to be very clear about what you are hoping to get out of the conversation with your manager. If you need time in the middle of the day for a therapist appointment, for example, ask for a long lunch. It is important in this asking process to also inform your manager of how you will make up the work you miss when going to said appointment. Perhaps you can stay a bit later at work, or not take a lunch break the day following the appointment to catch up. Reassuring your manager that you will not fall behind will make them more willing to let you do what you need for your mental health.
It is important that you take advantage of company resources as well. If your company has, for example, an employee assistance program, you can get confidential help free of charge. Also, if you do not feel comfortable discussing issues with your direct manager, perhaps try asking HR for advice.
Most importantly of all, do not be afraid to take sick days for your mental health. Taking care of yourself mentally is as important as taking care of yourself physically. If you need to, take a sick day to relax and care for yourself so you can return to work rejuvenated.