Due to reasons mainly unrelated to my job, I've been depressed, get suicidal thoughts, experience tiredness, lack of motivation, face difficulty in concentrating, etc.

Due to these reasons, and after a (luckily) failed attempt, I decided that I needed to see my doctor and take sick leave, to be able to clear my head a bit.

Now, we are in a tight spot in my workplace, with a very tight schedule. I also have a very understanding boss, who would not hesitate in giving me those sick leaves, but I don't want the project to suffer, and fall behind because of me.

So I thought that I should warn my boss that I might need to take sick leave so that they have the time to take my absence into account for the project. But I have no idea about the correct way to do this, or even if I should.

All of this happens in France by the way.

  • 19
    You mentioned your boss is very understanding, maybe set up a meeting with him to just mention that you've been struggling with mental health recently and that you're going to see a doctor about it but it may be that you require a few personal days in the near future. How comfortable do you feel telling your boss of the reasons you'll be taking sick days? If you don't feel you can mention that it's for mental health reasons, it may be a little trickier to have the conversation.
    – Gamora
    Jul 1, 2019 at 9:20
  • 11
    @gnat I don't think it's a duplicate, as in the question you linked, what is asked is how to prepare for unpredictable situation, where in my situation, I already know I am going to take sick leave, so I can warn my boss accordingly.
    – user3399
    Jul 1, 2019 at 9:40
  • 1
    @Max I only meant in case OP didn't want further questions asked, anticipating a health issue which will require time off work may seem a little odd to some employers and they may ask for further clarrification
    – Gamora
    Jul 1, 2019 at 13:03
  • 10
    @LaurentS.: "if you are sick, you get a sick leave" from my German perspective, I'd have said this is "employer has to give sick leave" (based on a doctor's attestation). Jul 1, 2019 at 18:35
  • 1
    @cbeleites > You're right, that would have been the correct formulation, you "get" your sick leave only if you've been proven sick by a doctor and the doctor is the one to decide the length of this leave. Important note is that after a given period of time, your employer isn't the one paying you anymore but your position is anyway "waiting for you" when you're ready to come back.
    – Laurent S.
    Jul 2, 2019 at 8:28

10 Answers 10


Please take care of your health and well being. Talk to your boss at the earliest.

Your mental well-being has a much higher priority than work which is a never-ending process.

Having an understanding boss makes things really easier as you have one less thing to worry about.

It would be good for both you and the company that you communicate your concern at the earliest. You and your boss can then work towards managing project work appropriately by planning things ahead of time.

Having suicidal tendencies shouldn't be taken lightly. Please work on resolving it by consulting with close family/friends/well-wishers, and taking appropriate medical/psychological counselling.

Take care, and wish you a speedy recovery.

  • 32
    Thankfully my family and partner are now aware of my situation, and have been really helpful, they're the ones who suggested I take a sick leave, and see a professional to help.
    – user3399
    Jul 1, 2019 at 9:55
  • 17
    Also, let me add that your reluctance to take a sick leave might be another symptom of your mental health issues. If you believe that might be true (and consulting with your doctor on this particular thing would be a good idea), perhaps following your family's and doctor's advice on this is a better idea than following your own thoughts. Jul 1, 2019 at 22:37
  • 6
    @Nelson "most company's sick leave annual allotment" - the OP is in Europe, specifically France. There is no such thing as an "annual allotment of sick leave". If you are sick, you take sick leave; if you aren't you don't. You can self-certify for the first ? days, and then you need a doctor's note. (Don't know how long you can self-certify for in France.) Jul 2, 2019 at 6:53
  • 7
    @MartinBonner : in French culture, when someone says "going on sick leave", it means : "1) go to the doctor’s 2) get a sick leave note from the doctor 3) be on sick leave" In France, the only leaves that are not subject to manager agreement are sick leaves, child sickness (3 unpaid days/year guaranteed by law) and special events. (marriage, adoption, birth, burial of relatives...) That’s why self-certifying sick leaves have close to no meaning in France. (you may talk to your manager and work the situation out with common sense, but that’s a favor from the manager, not a legal provision)
    – user58302
    Jul 2, 2019 at 8:10
  • 4
    @VolkerSiegel According to Laurent LA RIZZA it is not the same in France. Apparently in France you cannot self certify, and need a doctor's certificate for even one day off. (This seems like a massive waste of everyone's time, but that doesn't mean it isn't how it is done.) UK is three days, Switzerland it's two. However we are getting away from my main point that "there is no such thing as an annual allotment of sick leave". Jul 2, 2019 at 16:14

I would let your boss know about your planned absence, but don't call it sick leave, you aren't sick. Call it medical leave because you are leaving for medical reasons. Mental health is definitely a medical reason.

Hi Boss,

Unfortunately I won't be able to be here from XX/XX to YY/YY while I take care of a medical issue.



Your boss can plan around your absence and should know better than to press you for details.

  • 31
    Depression is a serious sickness, very often underestimated and one that cannot be entirely removed. With a proper treatment it can be controlled. But OP has all reasons to call that a sick-leave.
    – Ister
    Jul 1, 2019 at 21:40
  • 11
    @Ister Planning to take sick-leave by definition is unplanned absence due to a medical condition (at least where I work). This is definitely a planned absence and therefore not sick-leave. I won't argue the medical merits of whether depression is classified as a "sickness" because you are probably right, but in the context of taking leave from work, medical leave is more appropriate in this case and will probably be better received by management since planned medical leave is common.
    – noslenkwah
    Jul 1, 2019 at 22:07
  • 16
    You can plan sick leave. Surgery is likely to be know about in advance, chemotherapy is planned. Jul 2, 2019 at 6:55
  • 3
    I was going to say something along the same lines as @MartinBonner - If it was surgery, you wouldn’t hesitate to warn your boss that it was coming but you don’t have a definite date yet. There’s no reason not to treat this the same way, and you don’t have to tell your boss the details – in Europe, they should know better than to even consider asking. A simple “Hey boss, I’m seeing a doctor this week and there’s a chance I might be taking some time off as a result – I just wanted to give you a heads up” is more than enough.
    – timbstoke
    Jul 2, 2019 at 10:01
  • 10
    @MartinBonner & all: in some countries there is distinction between sick and medical leave. In others there is none. Probably in countries where distinction exists it might be different from country to country. Unless any of you have experience about France, discussing such distinction here is pointless.
    – Mołot
    Jul 2, 2019 at 11:09

Take the sick leave, your health comes first.

Inform your boss when you have the doctor’s note or sicknote.

Don’t go to your boss saying “I might be sick next week”, it sounds feeble and the boss, if things are busy, will try to get you to stay even though you are sick...

Remember Loyalty is a one-way street...

I had a similar situation and lost out due to a vicious manager and a mis-placed sense of loyalty...

  • 1
    do you have some reference to what you mean by "loyalty is a one-way street"? A quick search on Google only lead me to several articles about Donald Trump, oof.
    – james
    Jul 1, 2019 at 15:34
  • 4
    @binnyb experience... doing extra time to get jobs done, then asking to leave a half-hour early and being told no... ie I’m loyal to them, but they don’t care...
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 1, 2019 at 15:48
  • 7
    That doesn't sound like the behavior typical of an "understanding boss", more like a boss getting advised by Dogbert.
    – Barmar
    Jul 1, 2019 at 18:53
  • 1
    Such attitude is a one-way street. A self-fulfilling prophecy. If everyone things that, it will be that. But it doesn't have to. Particularly in the OP's circumstances.
    – Zeus
    Jul 2, 2019 at 5:38
  • 1
    @SolarMike when in similar situations (and obviously, every situation is different and I know nothing of the details of your situation) I've told rather than asked; because it's easy for someone to reply "no" to "is it ok if I do <XYZ>?", but if you say "I'm going to do <XYZ>" then the easy response is "ok". I've been fortunate in that no one's ever called my bluff.
    – Aaron F
    Jul 2, 2019 at 10:30

In short, no.

It's not about clearing your head a bit, it's about needing professional help which lets you break out of the downward spiral that you are in. Which, otherwise, inevitably will end in your demise.

Depression is a mental disorder, and these are heavily stigmatized. Which, in particular with depression doesn't help with getting better. If you tell them that you will leave, it is possible, and even likely, that you will be asked why. Yup, they're not entitled to do that, but who cares. Mental illness? Woah, behold the nutter! Don't let that happen, it's not going to do you well.

The normal procedure that everybody else follows with any kind of illness, and which you should follow as well, is to go on sick leave and file in your Cerfa without delay. No stories, no advance warnings.

Second, being honest can turn against you, talking out of experience. Some 20 years ago, I worked for half a week with high fever. Before that happened, everybody else had flu and called in sick (without hesitation, of course), I was the last to remain.
In an environment where "nobody here" means as much as "people will die", it's not easy to just call in sick as the last man standing. Thus, I drugged up so I remained standing on two feet, and pulled through, more dead than alive, until the first came back from sick leave.
After that, I told my boss (who was well aware of the situation) that now I would have to call in sick for 2-3 days to recover. Which was, well, pretty obvious. Or so I thought.

Big surprise, you never would expect your boss can be a total asshole. His reply was: "You know, when skiving off work, one normally has at least the decency not to announce it in advance".

So, out of experience, I can only recommend: If you're sick, for whatever reason, take sick leave and well, devil-may-care, whatever. Don't assume that people will be kind and understanding, or even fair.


The very fact that you asked such question means that you care. Moreover, it seems that you have a boss who cares. You are needed. Wonderful! What can be better?

Do what caring people do: share your concerns with the boss. Ask his/her advice.

You can always exercise your right to take a leave. Everyone can do it. But in your circumstances you can do better, both for yourself and for your colleagues. Yes, warn the boss, or rather just talk, as soon as you can. It's nice to be nice, even for your own comfort.


Other comments have dealt with legal issues.

Some managers won't be understanding or supportive of mental health issues, but some will. If yours will, then it'd be good for you to communicate as openly as you can with your manager.

Whilst you've said the reasons are unrelated to work, work almost certainly has some impact on your mental health. A caring manager who understands your situation will do what they can to reduce stress at work (reassigning tasks, etc), will understand if you need to take time off (or even just time out) with no notice, etc. They can also make longer-term arrangements for you to reduce your hours, work from home, reduce your workload or responsibilities, etc.

You may also have access to therapy through your work (e.g. most employer's insurance packages include some such benefit), which you may be unaware of as it would have been hidden amongst the deluge of paperwork that came when you joined the company.

Communicating with your manager will also allow them to plan around any time off you may have, and put things in place to ease this (e.g. ensuring your tasks are clear so that others can pick up your work if you're off without warning). Communicating (as best you can) how long you're likely to need off will also be much appreciated, as it allows them to plan – "I'm having a bad day, I need to go home, but I'll probably be fine tomorrow" is very different to "I can feel a bad patch coming on, expect me to be off for a week in the next few days", vs "I need a couple of months off". This will make it much easier for you to stay in your role rather than be replaced, and will help reduce your stress at work as your manager's expectations will be more accurate.

Obviously, if your manager isn't supportive, this may not be good advice.


In Germany it is common to make a "Kur" or "Reha" (for "Rehabilitation"). It means a treatment on a health resort to treat or obviate an health issue. This stays would be planned, so one know that it comes, but not exactly when. (They could occur as "ambulant" which means one will sleep at home, but go every day to the near by health resort.)

Maybe this is a course you can follow, to explain your sick leave to your boss.

For this one would ask the boss via E-Mail or phone for a meeting and then tell him about the planned stay and the possible time in which it takes place. So the boss can ask, for example which colleague fits best as substitution, or what documents have to be committed.

It is not necessary to talk about the reasons for this treatment, but it is not forbidden to do so either. If one does so, depends on ones relation to the boss.

  • "stationär" is exactly the opposite what you describe, as opposed to "ambulant".
    – glglgl
    Jul 2, 2019 at 9:33
  • @glglgl thank you! I will edit it ... Jul 2, 2019 at 10:50

Several of my family members have suffered similarly and have taken time off work for extended periods of time, in both the public and private sector. Typically for 3 months or so

In the UK we typically say that you'd be having time off due to "stress". This is treated as a catch-all for absence due to mental health issues

I'd suggest being honest with your boss, but for friends and family saying it is stress related if you're not ready to disclose the actual reasoning


Ask your doctor

He'll have a pretty good idea whether this is a good idea to do or not. He's a medical professional and might have noticed things about you that you haven't yourself and therefore we (the random people on the internet) don't know either. These things might make this a better/worse idea. If he thinks you should, or probably also if you just ask, he'll write a note for the company.

Don't worry to much about the work. You haven't said much about your company, but unless it's a really small one, they'll be fine without you.

They might even be insured for a longer-duration medical leave. If so, they'll need that doctor's note even more.


Contact HR

If possible contact HR about this. It's a health issue and it may be ongoing. They are the people who are responsible for dealing with these matters in an organization. They will also be (or should be) aware of all the legislation they are required to follow in relation to leave entitlement, medical appointment time off, sick benefits and so on.

HR will know how to communicate with your boss and what you can say, have to say and what you don't have to tell your boss. These are to some extent private matters and they should make every effort to respect that.

If you instead contact your manager they should also deal with HR (if it exists in your company), as this issue goes beyond normal line management's responsibilities. Anything involving a serious health issue will be dealt with on a different basis than e.g. a flu or something like that.

Possibly your union if appropriate.

If you are in a Union they will typically have advice lines and contacts for people needing advice on these issues. That may be worth investigating. Unions also sometimes have extra benefit and aids for members with illnesses that cover extended periods, as yours may.

Your doctor

Typically doctors will be able to advise you to some extent and, more to the point, can provide a cover letter to give to HR outlining the urgency and significance of your health and how that affects e.g. your availability for work. Talk to your doctor. If you have not already contacted a mental health specialist (and from your question I urge you to do so) ask your GP to advise on how to get that started. This can seem odd if you are not familiar with these things, but it is no different than going to the appropriate medical specialist for e.g. an eyesight problem or heart problem - they specialize in this sub-field of medicine and you need that expertise.

Now, we are in a tight spot in my workplace, with a very tight schedule. I also have a very understanding boss, who would not hesitate in giving me those sick leaves, but I don't want the project to suffer, and fall behind because of me.

In one way a very reasonable sounding idea, but let us be clear - you are seriously ill and you must put yourself and any family first. You clearly feel a great sense of responsibility, but in this case it is misplaced. Your first responsibility is to get your health stabilized and (hopefully) improving. Your employer has the responsibility (always) to ensure they can cope with emergencies like staff needing to be out on sick leave - that's a job for your managers, not for you.

Best wishes for a swift recovery.

  • I would tell HR it's a health issue, but I would recommend against getting into specifics. 1) they don't need to know, 2) I would absolutely not trust anyone in the company (boss, HR, CEO, it doesn't matter), with such private and sensitive information.
    – Alexander
    Jul 6, 2019 at 17:11
  • How specific the OP would have to be depends on local laws and their contract. They certainly should not have to give any details beyond the broad nature of the treatment - certainly not details like being suicidal. Jul 6, 2019 at 20:10

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