After asking for a mental health day, a screenshot of her boss’s response went viral

Madalyn Parker wanted to take a couple of days off work. I didn’t have the flu, and I had no plans to be on a beach somewhere, sipping mojitos under a palm tree.

Parker, a web developer from Michigan, wanted a few days off work to focus on her mental health.

Parker lives with depression. And, she says, staying on top of your mental health is absolutely crucial.

“The bottom line is that mental health is health,” he says via email. “My depression prevents me from being productive at work in the same way that a broken hand would slow me down because I wouldn’t be able to write very well.”

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Madalyn Parker was honest with her colleagues about her situation.

Photo courtesy of Madalyn Parker.

He sent an email to his colleagues explaining the honest reason he was taking the time off.

“Hopefully,” he wrote to them, “I’ll be back next week refreshed and back at 100%.”

Shortly after sending the message, the CEO of Parker’s company responded:

“Hi Madalyn,

I just wanted to thank you personally 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 isn’t standard practice in every organization. You are an example to all of us and help remove the stigma so we can all get to work.”

Moved by her CEO’s response, Parker posted the email exchange on Twitter.

The tweet, posted on June 30, 2017, has since gone viral, racking up 45,000 likes and 16,000 retweets.

“It’s nice to see some warm and fuzzy feelings go around the internet for once,” Parker says of the response to his tweet. “However, I have been absolutely blown away by the magnitude. I did not expect this much attention!”

Even more impressive than the reach of the tweet, however, were the heartfelt responses it garnered.

“Thank you for giving me hope to find a job just as I am,” one person wrote, who talked about living with panic attacks. “This is amazing”, rang in another. “What a great CEO you have.”

Some users, however, questioned why there needs to be a difference between vacation time and sick days; after all, asked oneAren’t vacations meant to improve our mental well-being?

That ignores an important distinction, Parker said, both in how we perceive sick days and vacation days and what time away from work is like. in reality is being spent

“I took a whole month off for partial hospitalization last summer and that was sick leave,” he said he wrote back “I still felt like I could use the vacation time because I didn’t use it and it’s a separate concept.”

Many users were surprised that a CEO would be that understanding of an employee’s mental health needs.

They were even more surprised than the CEO grateful her to share her personal experience with taking care of her mental health.

After all, there is still a huge amount of stigma attached to mental illness in the workplace, which prevents many of us from talking to our colleagues when we need help or need a break to focus on ourselves. We fear being seen as “weak” or less committed to our work. We might even fear losing our jobs.

Ben Congleton, the CEO of Parker’s company, Olark, even joined the conversation.

In a blog post on Medium, Congleton wrote about the need for more business leaders to prioritize paid sick leave, fight to curb the stigma surrounding mental illness in the workplace, and see their employees as people first

“It’s 2017. We’re in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to run at peak mental performance,” Congleton wrote. “When an athlete gets injured, they sit on the bench and they recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.”

This article originally appeared on 07.11.17

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