In a recent email to her colleagues, a Michigan software developer dealing with depression and anxiety wrote:
“I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.”
Her CEO’s response was perfect:
“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. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can bring our whole selves to work.”
The employee, Madalyn Parker, tweeted about the interaction and it’s gone viral. More than 16,000 people have retweeted her original post.
Madalyn has written elsewhere about her experience being open about her mental health at work, and it sounds like her company is setting a high standard for caring about its employees on all levels. She says the company’s generally supportive and empathetic atmosphere gave her the courage to tell her bosses and coworkers about her struggles and how they affect her at work. In response, colleagues have learned how to recognize her dark episodes and how to help.
It’s wonderful to hear a story like this. Mental health has been so stigmatized for so many years, and it’s refreshing to see it coming out of the shadows. Mental health is health. As Madalyn’s CEO put it in a blog post, “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.”
If you work in a supportive and positive environment, consider being honest about your mental health needs. The more we open up, the more mental illness emerges as a real illness that needs attention and treatment. Your honesty may encourage other colleagues to take the time they need to focus on their mental health and get back to a place where they can — most importantly — feel good, but also contribute more fully to the company.
Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.