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The importance of mental health days

We often talk about the importance of holistic wellbeing, a concept that recognizes the interconnectedness of physical and mental health, and considers how factors known as social determinants of health — including what we eat, our financial status, and the environments we occupy — affect our bodies and minds. But it can still be hard to take time off from work over mental health concerns.

One study found that even though mental health conditions are acknowledged within the medical system and have defined diagnostic criteria and treatment options, just like other ailments, there is still a social stigma that makes employees hesitate to reveal them.1 Many surveyed were concerned that their colleagues "would think they were worthless, or had serious character flaws.” Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health recognizes “that mental health is not taken as seriously, and treated as urgently, as physical health" and considers it "one of the biggest issues in our healthcare system — and society at large.”2

But here’s the thing about mental health: it is health. And mental health concerns must be treated with the same importance and urgency as physical issues.

Mental and physical health are on a spectrum.

It’s pretty common to feel blue when you’re fighting off a cold. That’s one way your immune system and mental health intersect. But the relationship goes both ways: your mental health can also affect your immunity. For example, conditions like depression and anxiety are correlated with an active sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. And when your fight-or-flight response is engaged, your immunity is lower. Practicing self-compassion has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and calm the threat system. So, taking time for self-care has the potential to boost both your mood and your immune system.

It may even help your digestion, since your gut is another body system affected by your emotional state, including angry, anxious, and sad feelings. If being stressed out gives you a stomach ache, it’s probably because “stress, depression, and other psychological factors can send the brain-gut connection out of whack and cause alterations to gut physiology." Similarly, what you eat affects your mood. According to research, “a well-chosen diet can help relieve symptoms, improve overall wellbeing and help us cope."

Put simply, while maintaining your mental health is important on its own, it’s also important because it contributes to your physical health — even lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Rest is preventative care.

This is especially relevant to the topic of mental health days because workplace stress is a significant issue for Canadians: 35% of Canadian employees report that they are burned out.3 

Clearly chronic stress should be treated seriously as a health risk. And one of the best things you can do when the stress becomes overwhelming is take a whole day off work. You can even schedule a mental health day proactively if you know you’ll be due for a break after a busy period. And reserving your daily lunch break for rest and rejuvenation is a good plan for maintaining better mental health over time.

The proof is in the productivity.

Considering the consequences of workplace stress, you should feel confident taking a mental health day. It benefits both you and your employer. The TELUS Mental Health Index found those who have the lowest mental health scores lose, on average, 69 working days per year.4

What’s more, employees who say they invest most of their energy in a balanced work and personal life have better mental health scores than those who invest mostly in their work or personal lives in isolation.4 The same is true for those who find fulfillment in a balanced personal and work life.


TELUS Health recognizes that mental health is health. That’s why we’re here.

So, if you notice signs that your health is suffering, such as mood changes, productivity loss, issues with concentration, irritability, or difficulty sleeping, consider speaking to your manager about taking the day off. And if you’re looking for support, you can access one of our mental health services or contact us for a Wellbeing Assessment.


1 Coe, E.; Cordina, J.; Enomoto, K. and Seshan, N. (2021, July 23). Overcoming stigma: Three strategies toward better mental health in the workplace. McKinsey. September 28, 2022.

2 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Mental Health Is Health. January 2, 2024. 

3 Psychological Health and Safety in Canadian Workplaces. Mental Health Research Canada. September 2022.

4 TELUS Mental Health Index (2023, October).