When Madalyn Parker, a web developer at Olark Live Chat, decided she was taking two days off for her mental health, she didn’t keep it under wraps. In fact, she announced it to her co-workers in an email.
“Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health,” the email read. “Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.”
That’s when Olark CEO Ben Congleton responded to her, in an exchange that Parker posted to Twitter.
“I just wanted to personally thank you for sending e-mails like this,” Congleton wrote. “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 bring our whole selves to work.”
When the CEO responds to your out of the office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision. http://pic.twitter.com/6BvJVCJJFq
— madalyn (@madalynrose) June 30, 2017
Parker’s tweet showing their messages has now been liked by more than 40,000 people and retweeted close to 15,000 times. In a blog post on Medium published a few days later, Congleton commended Parker for being honest about her mental health.
“Even in the safest environment it is still uncommon to be direct with your coworkers about mental health issues,” Congleton wrote. “I wanted to call this out and express gratitude for Madalyn’s bravery in helping us normalize mental health as a normal health issue.”
Congleton’s show of support for his employee is something many do not receive in their workplace. In response to Parker’s tweet, people opened up requesting time off for their well-being, and getting rejected:
I took a mental health afternoon at my last job and got passive aggressive documentation about the mental health coverage in our health plan
— Janie Clayton (@RedQueenCoder) July 1, 2017
This is great!! I once called in to take a mental health day.. My boss told me anxiety isn’t a real illness & that I needed a doc’s note 🤙
— danielle willette (@pickleDWilly) July 11, 2017
The stigma of having a mental disorder such as anxiety can keep workers silent to getting help for their real problems. According to Harvard Medical School, workers may think twice about seeking treatment if they feel it could jeopardize their job. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that over 42 million Americans suffer from a mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder. That’s nearly one in five people.
Investing in the mental health of employees can only reap rewards for companies, as happier employees will also be more productive. Congleton and Parker’s positive exchange may inspire others in leadership positions to take the mental wellness of their employees into account.