Why is taking time off for our mental health so hard?

Mental Health

Nearly half of us have felt like we needed time off during the pandemic, but most don’t take it

Since the Coronavirus pandemic started last year, we’ve all had to deal with a whole new rafter of stresses on top of our usual lot. For some this has exacerbated existing mental health issues, for others it has sparked brand new ones. Either way, it’s safe to say a lot of us have struggled.

According to new figures released by mental health charity Time to Change, nearly half of us (44%) have felt the need to take time off due to mental health during the pandemic but only 17% actually took the time off. Whether it’s taking time off work, school or university, it’s clear this is a step that many of us struggle with. But why?

According to the survey, 27% didn’t take time off because they were too embarrassed, 25% feared judgement and 24% thought it would put their future prospects at risk.

These statistics are being released today on Time to Talk Day, a nation-wide push to encourage people to be more open about mental health and reduce stigma.

Commenting on the figures, Director of Time to Change Jo Loughran asks us to take this opportunity to speak up.

“We know that attitudes towards those of us with mental health problems have improved in recent years and it’s important that we don’t let that slide. The last year has been hard and it’s perhaps made more people realise that we can all struggle with our mental health at times. Let’s take this opportunity to ensure that we all feel comfortable talking about it, too.

“It’s easy to think we haven’t got the power to make a change. But lots of ‘small’ conversations can add up to a big difference in tackling the stigma and discrimination too many people still experience because of their mental health. So, this Time to Talk Day, play your part – send a text, reach out, have a conversation.”

This year’s theme for the awareness day is ‘the power of small’, noting how small conversations have the power to make a big difference. In their light-hearted ‘Ambassadogs’ film, Time to Change champions, Ricky Wilson, James McVey and Bev Callard (and their four-legged friends) share tips to encourage us to reach out.

Some of the tips shared in the video include:

  1. Ask questions and listen – for example, “How does it affect you?”.
  2. Think about the time and place – sometimes it can be easier to chat when side-by-side.
  3. Don’t try to fix it – try to avoid jumping to a solution, often just listening is enough.

If everyone took a moment to start a conversation about mental health today – what could change? Small steps like these can lead to big changes.

Due to the current restrictions, Time to Change has taken their Time to Talk activities online, putting on a virtual festival full of free events. From laughter yoga to a cook-a-long, there’s something here for everyone.


If you’re feeling in need of time off but are struggling to do so, or are simply struggling to get a conversation started, you’re not alone. Here are some resources that might be helpful:

Why it’s OK to take a mental health day

How to talk about taking time off for mental health

Five things I’ve learned from talking about my mental health at work

How to talk about mental health at work

Three tools to help you talk about mental health

How to talk about mental health with someone who doesn’t understand

Tips for talking about mental health


If you’re looking for professional support, visit Counselling Directory.



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