Why many employed Americans fear requesting days off from work for their mental health

Over half of employed Americans think mental health isn't a valid reason to call out of work, according to new research.

The study polled 2,000 employed Americans to analyze their opinions on mental health care in relation to work and found 57% agreed there's still a negative stigma around this topic.

In fact, 62% of those surveyed said they feel their boss would judge them if they requested time off for mental health care - leading 54% to feel like this isn't a good enough reason to call out.

Seven in 10 respondents said they'd rather take an entire day off work rather than a few hours - all to avoid telling their supervisor why they're taking time off.

Additionally, 67% of those polled said they're more likely to keep it vague and just tell their employer they have "an appointment" if they have to take time off for mental health care.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Learn to Live, employed Americans feel so much PTO anxiety, that they completely avoid scheduling medical appointments four times a year because they don't want to have to ask for time off.

Over half (56%) of respondents also feel like their employer would think they're unable to perform their job if they did request time off for mental health care.

Those surveyed on salary, were the most likely to agree with this statement at 62% vs. 48% of hourly workers polled. 

Nearly three in five respondents currently receive mental health care, and 55% of these respondents said they've been using more mental health services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results also found 57% of respondents said the pandemic was the gentle push they needed to start caring for their mental health more - with salaried workers agreeing most at 65% vs. 50% of hourly workers.

This isn't to say the journey to care was an easy one, as 48% said the biggest hurdle they encounter with mental health care is the cost, citing it's just too expensive.

Forty-five percent of respondents also said they've been worried about being judged by loved ones for seeking out mental health care, closely followed by not having enough time to seek care (41%).

Thirty-four percent of pollsters even said a hurdle they've faced in seeking care was feeling afraid of what they'd discuss.

With these barriers to seek care, it's not surprising 64% of respondents wished they had more mental health care options outside of traditional therapy, either in-person or virtually.

"It's unfortunate, but not surprising, to learn that the stigma around mental health in and out of the workplace still exists," said Learn to Live CEO Dale Cook. "However, with more access to digital and remote solutions, individuals looking for mental and behavioral health support can work it into their life very seamlessly."

Perhaps because they struggled to find time for mental health care in the past, 58% of those surveyed believe employers should give employees paid time off specifically for mental health services - and they should grant their employees three hours a month.

Half of the respondents also said they wouldn't even need PTO, but rather they'd feel more productive if they could utilize their lunch break for their mental health needs.

As respondents are working from home - and even when it comes time to return to their normal schedules - 60% worry about their privacy when seeking mental health care virtually.

 "We all know how hectic our lives can be," Cook said. "This is why it's so important for mental health care and support to be there when you need it. By offering 24/7 access to our secure and privacy-protected platform, individuals can progress through the lessons and exercises at their own pace."