Back in June, a set of tweets between a CEO and his employee went viral when the CEO applauded his
staff person for taking mental health days as sick days. While this type of leadership is encouraging, not
all supervisors will be as open and affirming. It’s important to think strategically about your own

Maintaining mental health at work is an essential part of wellness and work-life balance. I talked to a
work-life expert, a mental health activist and a therapist to find out their advice for preparing to
negotiate for a mental health day. Here’s what they suggested:

1. Consider your manager’s needs.

Work-life expert Rachael Ellison coaches her clients to be aware of the pain points driving the need for a
mental health day, but to not let that pain frame the request. Instead, she suggests considering what
your manager might be thinking and feeling. The manager’s perspective can help you craft a more
strategic request that centers on general productivity.

“Speak from a place of confidence and calm,” Ellison suggests, “because you know it is what you need to
be your best at work. Frame your request in terms of effectiveness and collaboration, which is
something you know they will appreciate.” Using open-ended questions with your manager can help you
get the details you need to construct a truly collaborative request. These questions might include “what
can I prepare to make sure there is no interruption in the project?” or “what would you like me to
prioritize before I leave?” Listening carefully to your manager’s answers can help you target her top
priorities so that you can act to prepare and support them.

2. Know what you’re going to say and document everything.

“It’s important to prepare what you’re going to say before you reach out to human resources or your
supervisor,” suggests Dior Vargas, a leading Millennial Latina mental health activist. She suggests using
first person language that communicates how a mental health day can help boost productivity.

“It’s important to be in the mindset that you are deserving of a mental health day if you’re
overwhelmed. It also helps to word your request as something that would benefit the company. An
example might be, ‘I wanted to discuss taking a mental health day. Since working on our current project,

I’ve been feeling that my productivity isn’t at the level that I would like it to be at. Taking a day off would
help me refresh and better achieve the goals I have for this position.'” Vargas also suggests following up
via email after the meeting with details from your conversation, so everyone can stay accountable to the
agreed-upon next steps.

3. Set your privacy boundaries.

“Ultimately, mental health days shouldn’t be any different than a day off for physical health reasons,”
says Ariane Corcoran, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “If people are working in an environment
where they have a sense of safety and feel supported by supervisors, they may choose to disclose the
reason for needing a day off from their job. But if they don’t feel that sense of safety and support, they
may benefit from using less transparency.”

Corcoran notes that being more protective of privacy around mental health issues can be a more
strategic approach in cases where leadership’s views on mental health are less clear. “This isn’t because
there is anything wrong with needing and using a day off for mental health reasons. It’s because not all
employers may be equally informed and understanding,” Corcoran says. She suggests that individuals
should navigate in the way that is necessary to get the care they need, while still feeling secure in their

Many organizations will roll mental health days into their leave policy or sick day policy, or provide a
floating holiday. It’s best to consult your employer’s policy and think strategically about how you will
prepare for asking for a mental health day, including rehearsing the conversation with a friend to boost
your confidence. Joining your mental health with the best interests of your employer and firm
preparation is a successful way to create a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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