Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the two are more closely related than many people realize. So, what would happen if you asked your boss for a mental health day?
Pictured below is Madalyn Parker, a web developer from Michigan who did just that.
Madalyn Parker FACEBOOK
Madalyn asked her boss if she could take a few days off to focus on her mental health. She didn’t have a bad cold or a trip to some Caribbean beach planned.
Instead, she just needed some time to think, rest, and focus on her state of mind. Madalyn admits living with depression isn’t always easy and so it’s important for her to stay on top of her mental health.
“The bottom line is that mental health is health,” Madalyn explains. “My depression stops me from being productive at my job the same way a broken hand would slow me down since I wouldn’t be able to type very well.”
She sent an email to her colleagues that read:
I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.”
Instead of pretending she had the flu, Madalyn wanted to be open and honest with her coworkers by explaining the real reason she was requesting time off work.
Shortly after she pressed ‘send,’ she received a message back from the CEO of her company.
I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health — I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”
Needless to say, Madalyn was moved by her boss’ response. So much so, she decided to share it with all her followers on Twitter.
This happened back in June of 2017, and since then, it has been retweeted over 16,000 times and accumulated over 50,000 likes.
Madalyn was amazed by all the positive responses. “It’s nice to see some warm, fuzzy feelings pass around the internet for once,” Parker said.
“I’ve been absolutely blown away by the magnitude though. I didn’t expect so much attention!”
Many people were inspired by Madalyn’s post. One person who suffers from panic attacks replied:
“Thanks for giving me hope that I can find a job as I am.”
“That is bloody incredible. What a fantastic CEO you have,” wrote another.
Some people commented on their own boss, and how they wished to have a boss who was understanding and viewed them as a person.
Of course, there will always be haters out there. One user questioned the difference between sick days and vacation time – isn’t vacation time supposed to be for mental health?
While technically that might be true, it ignores the bigger picture. According to Madalyn, there’s a distinction between how we view sick days and vacation days regarding how that time is spent.
“I took an entire month off to do partial hospitalization last summer and that was sick leave,” Madalyn replied. “”I still felt like I could use vacation time because I didn’t use it and it’s a separate concept.”
Perhaps even more attention was paid to Ben Congleton, the CEO of Madalyn’s company, Olark.
People were shocked that a CEO even cared about mental health, let alone thanked Madalyn for the reminder to him, and to all, to take mental health breaks.
One month after this event, Ben wrote a blog post on Medium about mental health issues in the workplace in which he stressed the importance of prioritizing paid sick leave, as well as the need to stop stigmatizing mental health issues in the workplace.
He also stressed the importance of seeing employees as people over workers.
“It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance,” Ben Congleton wrote. “When an athlete is injured, they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.”