Mental health day

Mental Health Days were not just invented

NBC Nightly News concludes most of its broadcasts with a segment that it calls “Inspiring America.” Because so much “bad news” is reported, particularly on the local news, NBC likes to include a “sunshine story” in as many broadcasts as possible.

The problem is that there seems to be just about as much sensationalizing in reporting “good news” as bad news. This was very apparently on Wednesday, July 12, when the “Inspiring America” segment was on the “new” development of American workers taking mental health days.

Here is anchor Lester Holt’s introduction to the story, both before and after the lead-in commercial:

When we come back, who hasn’t needed a mental health day? We’ll go to one company where they’re actually embracing that concept.


Finally, tonight, a woman in Michigan just might’ve done more to highlight the importance of mental health in this country than anyone else recently, simply by what she told her boss when she called in sick recently. And it drew a surprising response that has touched so many others. Here’s NBC’s Kevin Tibbles with the story.

As a standalone, without context, the story might truly be a feel good. A woman who experiences depression and anxiety feels that she needs a mental health day. Instead of lying to her boss and saying that she has the flu (or some other conventionally acceptable reason), she says “I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.”

Hooray for her boss, Ben Congleton, and his response is indeed empathetic, “You’re already trusting people to stay home when they have the flu, trust them to stay home when they’re not mentally all there.”

The question is whether this should be news. The implication from NBC is that this was groundbreaking, the first time that an employee ever said that he/she needed a mental health day and the boss said, “Fine.” If this had occurred in the 1950s, perhaps it would have had the novelty to make it news.

But in many sectors of our society, we are more enlightened now than we were decades ago. Employees ask for and gladly receive mental health days all the time. I have been on both sides of the equation.

It is the way that many of us now can freely live our lives.

A better story by NBC would have been on those individuals in our workforce who feel that they need mental health days, but cannot openly ask for them. These individuals face the conundrum of either telling something that is not true or forcing themselves to go to work when it is not healthy for them, and perhaps not healthy for the employer as well.

Acknowledging and being sensitive to mental health issues in the workplace is something where we can all grow. In a civilized society, empathy is as key within the workplace as it is in all segments of our lives.

But the way NBC presented it, something that had never occurred before happened and they were the first to discover it. This may not have been fake news, but it certainly was hyped news, and in many ways, that can be equally destructive to our society.