|‘I am not in a mood to do anything today’ was the reply of a young graduate who joined me recently. It was the start of working hours and I wanted to finish assigned job within a day. I looked at her. There was no sign of any sickness, like running nose, sore throat or red eyes. She looked apparently normal but her reply was embedded with boredom and fatigue.|
I questioned myself looking back at past, have I ever had this luxury to say ‘I am not in a mood’, to my superiors. I remember, if my father asked me to get up and go out to do something, I had to, immaterial it is scorching heat or biting cold outside.
Then what is this ‘mood’ which is heard from the mouth of the youth today. Is it an outcome of disturbance in emotional well-being, or the result of stress, anxiety, and depression? Or the youth of today are not able to cope with the influx of information. Their mind is not focused; they start one job leave it unfinished and start doing another thing. In between their phone rings with messages from social network group, the other job also remained unfinished. The guilt of not finishing anything on time and postponing it for later probably influences their self-esteem.
David Volpi, a medical doctor, wrote in Huffington post that extensive use of technology is linked to fatigue, stress and depression in young adults. Though it has not been established by the scientists but regular, late night computer use is linked with sleep disorders, stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women. A disturbed sleep can very easily switch off ones mood. How to address this problem is a million dollar question, especially with a race by Internet providers to make available free Internet at night.
So, if one is not in a mood on any fine morning then what to do? In several advance countries there is a provision of ‘mental health day off’. That is the day of rest to address mental well-being of a person. It is different from the paid or unpaid sick leave for other physical illnesses.
Under Kuwaiti law article 69 provides calculations regarding various categories of sick leave available to the workers, to take time off from work without losing salary and staying at home to address their health problems. However, the leave is to be supported by the authorized medical certificate and normally it is for 2 to 3 days at a time.
The provision of mental health day is available in different countries as a day off from work when someone simply does not feel like coming to work because of true mental illness rather than a desire to skip work.
There are many if and buts. In 2010, New Zealand redefined “mental health day” because of logistics. It is cumbersome to get medical certificate for a day but employer needs proof. In Australia ‘mental health day’ was traditionally called as ‘chucking a sickie’ — taking time off when not really ill written by Cameron Edmond in The Dominion Post. However, every one supports the idea of “mental health day” but modalities have to be worked out. No one advocates that an employee should go to work when he is not feeling mentally stable. Mental health is equally serious issue as physical health.
Last but not the least is the fear of faking illness. Taking a fake sick leave is nothing new. Several time a report published in newspapers of Kuwait that fake sick leaves caused a huge loss to government establishments. It goes well with fake life style of today every linkage is virtual. There is probably no fear of punishment. A psychotherapist generally believes motivational counseling improves attention of people and grows their self-esteem. Thus, to address this problem employees’ health assessment and assistance program should be made available.
I wish to end with a personal statement that in my forty three years of work, I have not availed a single day of sick leave. I believe sickness is a frame of mind unless one is suffering from infectious disease, so it’s better develop love for your work and attach dignity to labor to make sure you will never be absent from your duty.
By Dr Mirza Umair Beg
Senior Research Scientist, KISR