Is depression an acceptable excuse to call in sick to work?

According to a survey of 1,000 business owners and CEOs, 35 percent said being depressed is an acceptable reason to call in to work. 

Radio hosts Dave & Chuck the Freak addressed this on a recent show (Listen here at 32 minutes and 33 seconds). They were baffled that anyone would call in sick for being depressed or anxious. Dave said his boss would probably hang up on him after saying, “You’re calling into work because you’re sad?” and “Snap out of it.”

“I would just try to take a Xanax and calm down and deal with it,” Dave said. “I would be judged as the crazy depressed guy.”

Dave & Chuck the Freak
One listener, Cheryl Lynn, wasn’t too thrilled about the hosts’ take on mental illness and made a video response on her YouTube channel.

“I want it to be known that what you guys said is part of the problem. It’s part of the stigma that’s associated with mental health,” said Cheryl, who was in the Final 4 in WRIF’s Rock Girl contest. “I have depression. I have anxiety. … It can be because of a chemical imbalance. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t ‘pull it together.’”

“The world needs us all to come together to find a solution and to be OK to talk about mental health just like we’re OK to talk about cancer. … Too many people are killing themselves because they feel like they can’t talk about it because of this negative stigma.”

Cheryl Lynn
She stressed that she is not asking people to boycott the station and that she will still listen to the show every day. But she called what they said on the show “unacceptable.” She said that someone who is depressed or anxious is not any less than anyone else who is sick.

“It is a disease and it does need treatment. It needs to be taken seriously,” she said.

While working at The Oakland Press, I called in sick once because of a rough bout of depression. It was so bad that I physically felt sick. I only got two hours of sleep the night before, I felt like I was going to throw up, and I had a splitting headache. I honestly felt like I couldn’t drive, even if I wanted to.

I told one of my bosses the truth about why I wasn’t coming in to work. And she let me talk to her about what was going on and provided resources for me to seek help. That’s how a boss should react – not say, “Get over it.”

I had four sick days left for the year when I asked for that day off. I feel that, as long as you have sick days available, then it doesn’t matter if you are sick mentally or physically. You have the right to that time off. Sicknesses should be treated equal; you would never be judged for calling in with a flu -- although, I don’t know about you, but I would hands down rather have the flu than depression. 

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  1. I have been there many times. I have never felt I could be honest with my bosses. Kudos to you and your boss. Many people don't understand depression. It is post like this that will provide education and compassion.

  2. I've been there. I have a boss that fortunately (although she micromanages just about every other aspect of the job haha) doesn't want to know why I'm calling in sick. But I still try to say something about why I'm calling in and if my depression has me worn-out, not sleeping, heart-racing anxiety, any number of those symptoms, I just talk about those. "I can't make it in today. I got like 2 hours of sleep -- sorry."