Madalyn Parker wanted to take a few days off work. He didn’t have the flu, and he had no plans to be on a beach somewhere sipping mojitos under a palm tree.
Parker, a web developer from Michigan, wanted a few days off work to focus on her mental health.
Parker suffers from depression. And she says staying on top of her mental health is absolutely essential.
“The bottom line is that mental health Is health,” she says via email. “My depression prevents me from being productive at work in the same way that a broken arm would slow me down because I wouldn’t be able to write very well.”
Madalyn Parker was honest with her colleagues about her situation.
Photo: Madalyn Parker.
He sent an email to his colleagues and told them the honest reason he was taking time off.
“Hopefully,” he wrote to them, “I’ll be back next week refreshed and back at 100 percent.”
Shortly after sending the message, the CEO of Parker’s company wrote back:
I just wanted to personally thank you for sending such emails. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of taking sick days for your mental health. I can’t believe this isn’t standard practice in all organizations. You are an example to all of us and help cut the stigma so we can all put our whole selves to work.”
Moved by his CEO’s response, Parker posted the email exchange on Twitter.
The tweet, posted on June 30, 2017, has since gone viral, garnering 45,000 likes and 16,000 retweets.
“It’s nice to see some warm fuzzy feelings around the internet for once,” Parker says of the response to his tweet. “However, I’ve been quite shocked by the size. I didn’t expect so much attention!”
Even more impressive than the tweet’s reach, however, were the heartfelt responses it received.
“Thank you for giving me hope that I can find a job as I am” wrote one person, who opened up about her life with panic attacks. “It’s bloody incredible” played in the second. “What a fantastic CEO you have.”
However, some users questioned why there must be a difference between vacation time and sick days; however, one askedaren’t holidays supposed to improve our mental well-being?
This misses an important distinction, Parker said, between how we experience sick days and vacation days and how this time away from work is actually are consumed.
“I took a whole month off for partial hospitalization last summer, and it was sick leave,” he wrote back. – I still felt that I could use vacation time, because I didn’t use it and that is a separate concept.
Many users were amazed that the CEO would understand the mental health needs of the employee.
They were even more surprised than the CEO thank you to him for sharing his personal experience of taking care of his mental health.
After all, there is still a large amount of stigma surrounding mental illness in the workplace, which prevents many of us from talking to our colleagues when we need help or need a break to focus on ourselves. We fear being seen as “weak” or less committed to our work. We may even fear losing our jobs.
Ben Congleton, CEO of Parker’s company Olark, even joined the conversation himself.
In a blog post on Medium, Congleton wrote about the need for more business leaders to prioritize paid sick leave, fight to reduce workplace stigma surrounding mental illness, and see their employees people first.
“It’s 2017. We’re in the knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to perform at peak mental performance,” Congleton wrote. “When an athlete gets injured, he sits on the bench and recovers. Let’s get rid of the idea that the brain is somehow different.”
This article originally appeared on 7/11/17
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