How to Request a Leave of Absence For Mental Health Reasons — 5 Things to Know

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 27, 2024 at 1:21PM UTC

“I'm thinking about asking to take a leave of absence for my mental health,” an FGB member recently wrote in our forums. “I think I'm really experiencing burnout. Have you ever asked for this? What should I know before asking?”

The post author is not alone in feeling burnout. These past few years, in particular, have been fraught, complicated and exhausting. And many of our other members have experienced similar sentiments — and were eager to share their experiences.

1. Look into your benefits.

Sue encouraged the author to check with their HR department or company handbook to find out what the employer offers in terms of mental health leave.

“Determine how long you think you will need off,” she wrote. “Can you manage without an income — or do you have PTO/Vacation time you can use? Develop a plan of what people will do in your absence. Have a plan to leave and to return, as well as a plan not to come back (if that's what you decide).”

2. Know that you don’t have to divulge the reasons to management.

“You absolutely do not have to tell your management team the reasons,” an FGBer noted. “I advise you to keep it private. Some workplaces and coworkers will use it against you. Let people wonder — you can’t control what people will assume.”

“You also have control over permissions your company has over medical info,” another member added. “You can grant them permission to verify info you submit but not full access into your medical record.”

“My advice is yes, definitely take the time to heal, and keep your reasons private,” another agreed. “It’s worth it.”

3. Get a doctor’s note if possible.

It may not always be feasible to secure a note from your doctor, but if you can, it will provide ample evidence that you need this break for health reasons.

“As long as you have a doctor who can sign the papers stating that it is medically needed, you'll be fine!” one member wrote. “Also, check to see if your employer offers short-term medical leave. Mental health is just as important as your physical health so hopefully, your employer will understand that!”

“Do you have a plan for treatment while you're out?” another asked. “I had to submit medical records to my company's insurance company proving that I was evaluated and sought treatment during this time in order to be paid and have my med leave approved.”

4. Identify and work with your replacement.

If you make every effort to make things easy for your employer while you’re gone, they will appreciate your efforts.

“Find out who will be covering your work while you're out and what your re-entry will look like,” one Fairygodboss member wrote. “Talk with your manager about this, if you have time to do so. I did not. My leave was sudden, so I left a lot of loose ends.”

5. Be prepared for scrutiny upon your return.

Unfortunately, many people pry. We’re curious by nature, and many will want to know where you’ve been and why you were gone. That includes your colleagues AND your managers

“When you return, be prepared to have eyeballs on your performance,” one FGBer wrote, speaking from personal experience. “I feel like I am under the microscope.”

It may sound a little overwhelming, but the fact is, many people take mental health leave for various reasons — and it is well worth it. Remember: your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and we all need breaks sometimes.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance editor and writer based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab-mix Hercules. She primarily focuses on education, technology and career development. She has worked with Penguin Random House, Fairygodboss, CollegeVine, BairesDev and many other publications and organizations. Her humor writing has appeared in the Weekly Humorist, Slackjaw, Little Old Lady Comedy, Flexx Magazine, Points in Case, Jane Austen's Wastebasket, and Greener Pastures. She also writes fiction and essays, which have appeared in publications including The Memoirist and The Avalon Literary Review. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for asking for mental health leave? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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