What To Say When Calling In Sick With Depression

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Today’s blog post emphasises on ‘what to say when calling in sick for depression’. We begin our discussion with a brief overview of depression. This is followed by understanding the stigma around depression, especially at the workplace. We then move to taking into account the various things that need to be considered if one needs to take a few days off for dealing with depression and lastly we try to answer the question, what to say when calling in sick with depression with the help of a few practical tips.

What To Say When Calling In Sick With Depression:

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Employees who work full time in corporate sectors or any other sector are often confronted with this question, ‘what to say when calling in sick for depression?’ when they are dealing with depression or any other mental health condition, whereas they may not be confronted by such questions when they have to call in sick for a physical condition. 

Here are a few ways in which the employees can tackle the question ‘what to say when calling in sick with depression’ and help them inform the office authorities accordingly. 

  • Inform the organisation as soon as possible
  • Keeping the conversation brief
  • Convey your absence along with making provisions to cover for your absence
  • Make sure that right people know
  • Always followup

Depression:

Depression is a common mental health issue which has been affecting the way people think, feel and behave. It is a mood disorder associated with persistent feelings of sadness, anger, irritability, loss of interest in daily activities along with rumination and worrying. It is also associated with feelings of self-blame, inordinate guilt, hopelessness, helplessness and feeling empty. 

Often sleep and appetite are disturbed in depression, wherein either there is an excessive amount of eating and sleeping or there is a complete inability to sleep and a loss of appetite. In severe cases, depressive thoughts are also associated with self-harm and suicidal ideations.

There can be a variety of reasons that may trigger depression, such as family history of depression, trauma and abuse, life events, loss of a loved one, job stress and inability to keep up with work demands, other medical conditions, drug and alcohol abuse and dysfunction in the family relationships.

What To Say When Calling In Sick With Depression

Is there a stigma around depression, especially at workplaces?

Yes. Even though depression is a very common mental health issue with many people getting affected by it, there continues to be a stigma attached to it. This stigma is likely to be greater when it comes to the workplace situations. 

Let’s take a look at what stigma looks like. Depression and many other mental health conditions are common and treatable in nature. Yet, there is a stigma attached to depression and other mental health conditions, which is  not seen in case of physical health issues. At workplaces, taking a leave for accidents and injuries, vomiting, diarrhea or fever is considered acceptable and is empathised, but this is not the case for mental health issues. 

So stigma can be seen as a negative stereotype about mental illnesses including depression which is seen at workplaces and even outside of it. 

It has been seen that even at the most progressive workspaces, employees have chosen to remain silent about their mental health issues such as depression. The main reasons for this can be the fear that voicing out one’s mental illness may harm the reputation, it can potentially compromise and terminate work relationships or in the worst case scenarios, it can also lead an employee to lose their job and they would be questioned on their productivity and commitment to the job. 

Sadly, this has made the employees make a choice to either continue suffering at work or to lie and take a few days off to cater to their mental health conditions, primarily due to the fear of the reactions that may come from the co-workers and the employers. Studies have also shown that although many employees feel that taking a leave for mental health reasons is valid, only a small percentage of employees are actually able to state the true reason for taking a leave. 

This confirms that although employees realise that they need to take a few days off for their mental health, they feel uncomfortable doing so, despite the statistics that stress, anxiety and depression are precipitated due to the workplace stress.

Although, today many organizations are taking active steps at making workplaces free of stigma, they do have a long way to go. 

What if I need to call in sick for depression?

Due to the stigma attached to mental health issues at the workplace, people may have a lot of questions and thoughts that they may have to deal with if they have to take a few days for dealing with depression or any other mental health condition.

Here are some questions that the employees may want to ponder upon while deciding to call in sick with depression:

  • What are the legal provisions available to me?

The laws can differ from state to state and country to country. The employee needs to be aware of the basic rights and provisions available to them under the law of their region. However, there are certain general legal and ethical guidelines that every employer has to follow such as the employer cannot ask any invasive or in depth questions about the person’s mental health condition such as depression and other mental health disorders that are listed as serious in nature. 

In many situations, however, the employee may have to disclose their depression to the employer, which may be difficult for the person.

Many employers may also demand a doctor’s note which is mandated by the organisation, even though the best a person can do in a mental health break is taking rest at home and unfortunately, lack of a doctor’s note may make them deny the leave. This has to be taken into consideration by the employee.

  • Will disclosing my depression change others’ perception towards me and also cost me my job?

Although this may not happen everywhere, the possibility cannot be denied. This question often leads a lot of employees to continue working despite their condition or lie and take a sick leave. 

After the office comes to know about an employee’s depression, he or she is often given a silent treatment, is not made a part of interactions and activities and may also be fired for prolonged absenteeism due to the condition.

However, there are many workplaces which are now tolerant and supportive of an employee’s depression and this can be supporting. 

  • Is the outlook about mental health undergoing a shift at my workplace?

The stigma around mental health issues, especially depression is now being voiced out making the workspaces aware of these practical problems. So, while thinking of what to say when calling in sick with depression, one can also think of the extent to which the outlook has shifted or has a potential to shift. 

Although there are laws and federal policies regarding the enforcement of mental health awareness at the workplace, true change can be bought by only when the employers decide to incorporate mental health leaves and sensitivity at the workplace. Therefore, while making this decision, one must take into account the extent to which the employer would be cooperative and understanding of the situation faced by the employee.

Answering the question, ‘what to say when calling in sick with depression’

There are certain ways a person can call in sick for taking care of their mental health, in a manner that would lead to the least amount of stigma.

  • Inform the organisation as soon as possible:

One of the ways we can answer the question, what to say when calling in sick with depression is to be honest about what you are feeling and informing the organisation as soona s possible. It is always better to inform the boss as early as possible or as immediately as possible in the most honest manner about your feelings.

  • Keeping the conversation brief:

One thing that often leads the person to what to say when calling in sick of depression is that they may not know the exact words in which they can express what they feel. It is so important to understand that one need not give out extensive details of the condition or what the person is feeling. It is important to keep the conversation brief and precise enough for the boss to understand the gravity of the situation.

  • Convey your absence along with making provisions to cover for your absence:

When a person has to call in sick because of depression, one way in which things can be made better is by making provisions to cover up for your absence. Therefore while conveying that one needs leave to cater to mental health, the person could also talk about the provisions that can be used so that his or her absence does not create any pressure. This can be done by handing out phone numbers and email addresses of the team members, telling a team member or a colleague to cover up for some days or telling the boss that one may be available on call for a certain amount of time in case of emergency.

This is likely to compensate for the absence.

  • Make sure that right people know:

Most stigma about depression at the workplace happens when people gossip about it, reinforcing the negative stereotypes. One way to answer the question, ‘what to say when calling in sick with depression’ is to inform a selective few people at the workplace in a calm and precise manner. 

This can be done by telling them the ways in which depression is taking a toll on you and the number of days you won’t be there at work. This increases empathy and reduces the stigma. 

  • Always followup:

When wondering about what to say when calling in sick with depression, one should also know that they should be prepared to follow-up with the employer about their condition. This means that if they are going to need more days off as compared to what was initially planned, they need to convey it in a manner that is precise and honest. This is likely to give the employer a clear idea and they are more likely to be supportive.

On a closing note, it needs to be understood that one need not be ashamed of taking a leave to deal with depression. It is a mental health condition and just like a physical health issue, it can be treated. Acceptance of one’s condition and the willingness to take care of oneself may require a few days off from the office which should be done as and when needed.

Organisations on the other hand, are now increasingly realising the importance of mental health and are developing a sensitivity towards mental health conditions by making mental health leaves a part of company policy along with promoting therapy, yoga sessions, mindfulness based sessions at workplaces.

Frequently Asked Questions: What To Say When Calling In Sick With Depression

Can you take sick leave for depression?

Yes. Sometimes taking a stress leave is the right thing to do. You may not see your situation strictly as needing a  leave, but you may be experiencing burn out, anxiety, or depression. 

Can I get fired for going to a mental hospital?

No. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee simply because they have a mental health condition. This includes firing the person, rejecting them for a job or promotion, or forcing them to take leave.

Can you be fired for having anxiety?

The Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) protects employees from discrimination based on a disability—including mental illnesses like depression or anxiety and hence they cannot be fired.

Can Work sack me for being off sick with depression?

You can be dismissed if you have a persistent or long-term illness that makes it impossible for you to do your job. Before taking any action, your employer should  look for ways to support you  for example, considering whether the job itself is making you sick and needs changing, if there can be any provisions made on the job to help you feel better, if you might feel better by changing your work profile etc.

How many sick days are normal?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average number of paid sick days is often directly proportional with years of service. Workers receive 7 sick days per year with 1 to 5 years of service while they receive 8 sick days per year with 5 to 10 years of service.

Conclusion:

Today’s blog post emphasised on ‘what to say when calling in sick for depression’. We began our discussion with a brief overview of depression. This was followed by understanding the stigma around depression, especially at the workplace. We then moved to taking into account the various things that need to be considered if one needs to take a few days off for dealing with depression and lastly we tried to answer the question, what to say when calling in sick with depression with the help of a few practical tips.

I hope this blog post was able to provide the readers with an insight about the various ways in which one can convey that they need a break to deal with depression. Please feel free to post your comments and queries below. 

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

https://www.fastcompany.com/90440911/what-to-know-about-calling-out-sick-for-mental-health-reasons

https://www.wikijob.co.uk/content/features/useful-resources/call-in-sick#if-you-need-a-mental-health-day

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