Should you introduce mental health days?

Should you introduce mental health days?
Over the past few years, a growing number of corporate employers have introduced wellbeing days to give their staff a chance to destress – is it time schools started to do the same?

The practice sees employees given a set amount of days per year to take off when they choose – whether that means catching up on sleep at home or simply taking time out of the office to relax.

Major corporations like Google and General Electric are among those to offer the perk while some UK employers have a more relaxed approach, calling them "duvet (doona) days.”

Dr Vivenne Sullivan – a psychologist from Melbourne-based Healthy Minds Allied Services – told Fairfax Media that mental health is still overlooked in some areas but said offering days off could help counteract that.

"A mental health day is a fantastic initiative that works to reduce the stigma around mental health issues, increase community knowledge and promote mental wellbeing," she said.

However, Paul Geyer – CEO of the Principals Australia Institute – said schools need to dedicate far more than a few days off if they want to achieve a mentally healthy workplace.

“{Mental health days are] something that could be considered if there was sound evidence to substantiate that it made a difference to an individual’s health, but the complexity of wellbeing in schools and the underlying causes suggests that there needs to be a range of actions and initiatives implemented,” he told the Educator.

“These could include staff being encouraged to go home by 4pm on certain days, or managing expectations around attending extra-curricular events and activities.”

Currently, the educator sector has a notoriously high rate of stress with one recent Australian study revealing that almost half of teachers feel stressed “most of the time’’ or “fairly often’’ in a typical week.

The study, conducted by the Australian Scholarships Group and the Australian College of Educators, also found that 21 per cent of teachers had considered leaving in the previous three months.