Madalyn Parker understands the parallels between physical and mental health firsthand: She said she once had to be hospitalized due to problems with her mental health.
So when she felt she needed a couple of days off for her mental health, she was honest about why she was taking a sick day with her team and the CEO of her company.
“Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow off to focus on my mental health,” she wrote. “Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%. Thanks, Madalyn.”
It isn’t the first time Parker, a web developer based in Michigan, had been honest about her mental health needs in the workplace. In March 2015, she wrote a blog post to Medium about overcoming mental health hurdles at work, and how after a lot of anxiety and depression she had gone to her bosses at work about her state. They immediately agreed to work with her, and the company even revised its leave policies to include mental and emotional health.
So rather than make Parker feel guilty for taking too much time off, the CEO of her company, Ben Congleton, praised her instead.
“Hey Madalyn, 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,” Congleton wrote. “You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”
Parker asked her boss if she could share his response on Twitter, and he gave her the green light. And though Parker might not have been surprised by the supportive response from the CEO of her company, a lot of other people were.
The tweet was retweeted more than 10,000 times and liked more than 33,000 times. Some expressed jealousy for her supportive company, while others said her specifying she was taking the day for mental health was unnecessary. Many asked if her company was hiring.
Congleton later responded to the attention, also in a blog post on Medium, saying the outpouring of support had surprised him because “this should be business as usual. We have a lot of work to do.”
“It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance,” 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.”
Mental health problems are fairly common in the U.S. About one in 20 people over age 12 report suffering from depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anxiety disorders affect about 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Multiple studies have found that more than one out of four people report feeling “burned out” or “extremely stressed” by their work. The CDC says multiple studies have shown that certain working conditions greatly increase work stress, including heavy workloads, lack of family-friendly or work balance policies, lack of support from coworkers or management, job insecurity and dangerous working conditions.