Photo Courtesy: John Radcliffe
Extended Vacation Time Could Save Billions, Minds
A recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that Americans are losing billions of dollars each year because of mental health issues. In fact, mental disorders, which can range from social anxieties to mood problems, are the number one cause of disability in the United States and Canada.
Seems like EVERYBODY’S got a therapist
Coming from a big city like New York, it’s not uncommon to hear friends and even strangers discuss their therapist’s views on the latest passages in their lives. But, in truth, only one out of every three people with a diagnosable mental condition is actually seeking help. Age-old stigmas about people with mental illness can prevent people from looking for care; others feel like they have to manage it all on their own, and many others still cannot afford the high costs of therapy and medication that may help them to get well.
Do you work too much?
But who is to blame when a person with mental illness does seek out help, and the condition still prevails? In a society where 40-hour work weeks are quickly becoming 60- and 70-hour work weeks, the surmounting pressure of managing a mental health condition while keeping up at work is certainly enough to cause revenue and productivity losses. An effective solution for a mental health problem – whether minor or serious — cannot be found overnight.
Can you afford a break?
Perhaps those concerned about monetary losses due to employees’ mental health should instead look to their company practices. It’s no secret that employees in many European countries are allotted greater periods of rest than the average American or Canadian employee, with 4 weeks paid time off being the EU minimum for both full and part-time workers (though many companies offer even more time than this).
When you compare these figures, it doesn’t seem like much of a coincidence that it’s employees in the US and Canada that are costing themselves, and the companies they work for, extra dollars. When options for taking time off and retaining salary and medical benefits are slim, job burnout becomes a contributing factor to mental decline, especially for those with depression or anxiety. The idea of burnout is not a fictitious justification for avoiding work – this gradual process can cause stress, exhaustion, feelings of insecurity, hopelessness, and cynicism toward others.
If you’re dealing with such a situation, learning to support your health — which includes saying no to unfairly demanding tasks — can help. Advocating for better time off opportunities is another option, though far fewer will attempt to do so, especially in today’s competitive job market.
Want to do Something about it?
One way to campaign for these rights on a broader level is to get involved with large-scale initiatives for employee time off, such as Take Back Your Time, “a major U.S./Canadian initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment.” Check this out for more info.
Adrienne writes for special-interest magazines and has worked on the production of women’s lifestyle channels at AOL as well as at E! Entertainment Television. She graduated from CUNY Baruch, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper The Ticker.