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Brave woman emails her colleagues about taking a “mental health day”


Madalyn Parker | Twitter

Cerith Gardiner - published on 07/13/17

... and the response from her boss is perfect.

With vacation season in full swing many of us are looking forward to spending our precious days off to unwind and focus on family. Strangely, however, we often come back from a break feeling we need another one,  especially when we look down at the mounds of laundry. Although vacations take us away from the daily grind, which is important, they don’t necessarily give us time to truly switch off and get away from every day stressors. This is when a mental health day can be crucial.

If you’ve never heard of such days it’s because there’s so much stigma attached to anything relating to mental health. But recently one woman, Madalyn Parker, decided to not only take time off to specifically focus on her mental health, but to email all her colleagues, including her boss, to let them know. The web developer then tweeted the email exchange she had with her boss for others to read and share; highlighting how incredible her boss is, and also the importance of taking time off to be able to perform at your very best.

The Twitter thread garnered a lot of positive responses, with some questioning the difference between vacations and mental health days, to which Parker responded: “Having them separate helps me reason about them. I took an entire month off to do partial hospitalization last summer and that was sick leave. I still felt like I could use vacation time because I didn’t use it and it’s a separate concept.”

Fellow Twitter user, Josh Hancock reasoned: “You wouldn’t take holiday leave because you’ve got flu. Mental Health is just as serious and real as Physical Health.” And Pavneet Singh Saund voiced what many parents often feel: “With a family I need vacations for shared experiences. I take days off to care for myself. Physical and mental.” Whereas Angela Grace tweeted: “Wow I WISH!!! I had a boss who LITERALLY told me he was going to fire me for for having depression because it was ‘inconvenient.'”

While it is certain that Parker’s CEO, Ben Congleton, seems pretty exceptional, this simple email exchange proves just how important it is to break down the stigma attached to mental health. In response to the interest in Parker’s email thread, Congleton points out: “It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 Americans are medicated for mental health.”

That is a staggering ratio and the National Alliance on Mental Health also explains that 43.8 million Americans experience mental illness in a given year, with 9.8 million people claiming this affects one or more of their life activities. If employers encourage their employees to take a little time to focus on their mental health from time to time, they could they have a more productive workforce. As Congleton rightly states: “Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. 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.”

By speaking out about mental health issues we can try to understand our colleagues and maybe even help them combat some of their issues. Helping those in need begins with simply caring for each other.

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