She took a day off to focus on mental health. Her CEO’s response has gone viral.

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She took a day off to focus on mental health. Her CEO’s response has gone viral.

Madalyn Parker didn’t have the flu or wasn’t physically ill in any way, but she took a few days off from work at Olark last month anyway.

She didn’t spend them having fun or playing ‘hooky’. Instead, she was focusing on her mental health. Madalyn lives with depression, and needed to take care of herself. Her illness may not be visible like a cold or flu, but it still causes her to feel rundown, fatigued and unable to perform at full capacity.

“The bottom line is that mental health is health,” she told Upworthy over email. “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.”

Most people with depression suffer in silence, thanks to the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental illness. But Madalyn chose to be honest with her co-workers and emailed them the reason why she was taking time off.

Madalyn’s company CEO Ben Congleton heard about Madalyn’s email and wrote her directly. Instead of upbraiding her, he instead thanked her for being open — and for foregrounding the importance of mental health.

“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,” he wrote. “You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”

Madalyn was so moved that she tweeted the exchange, which went viral — showing just how resonant its compassion was, and just how important the issue of mental health is to many people.

Ben Congleton wrote about the importance of work and mental health before, showing an enlightened attitude on job, productivity and taking care of workers.

“It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance,” Congleton wrote on Medium. “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.”




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