Employee Asked For A Mental Health Break, But The CEO Had An Unexpected Reply

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In our society, it’s not uncommon to feel pressure to always put work first. We push ourselves past our breaking points to ensure our bosses are happy and bottom lines are met. Most of us are overworked and underpaid, yet we feel like we have no choice but to push through…but for how long?

Work is the one constant we’re meant to go back to every day for the rest of our lives. However, we’re only human, and there will be days when we can’t seem to muster up the energy. That should be okay.

Madalyn Parker was no longer feeling like herself. She didn’t have the flu, and she didn’t have a prepaid all-inclusive vacation planned. She simply was listening to her mind and her body, and they told her that she needed to pause. She sent an email asking for a few days off… she was stunned by her boss’ response.

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Living With Hidden Depression

Madalyn Parker—a web developer from Michigan—wanted a few days away from work to focus on her mental health. She lives with depression which is a mental health disorder that looks different every single day. Some days Madalyn likely felt like herself and was productive at work, while other days, she could barely make it out of bed.

selfie Portrait of madalyn smiling
Madalyn Parker
Madalyn Parker

However, the depression is there every day, and sometimes it’s too much for a person to handle. They can either ignore it to get through the day (which is simultaneously rejecting their own needs) or they can take a moment to put responsibilities on hold to take care of themselves.

Bravely Sharing The Honest Reason

Work is designed to require our daily presence. It can feel like if we take time away from it, somehow everything will fall apart. In reality, our job is only a small fraction of the grand scheme of things. While surely our contribution to society matters, it shouldn’t overrule our health and well-being.

Email: hey team, I'm taking today and tomorrow to focus on mental health. Hopefully I'll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%. Thanks, Madalyn
Madalyn Parker
Madalyn Parker

Madalyn knew that if she took some time off, not only would it be good for her but for her company as well, as she would be able to come back with mental clarity and a positive attitude. She sent an email to her colleagues, telling them the honest reason why she was taking time off.

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

Praised By The Ceo

Soon after Madalyn sent her message, the CEO of Parker’s company themselves wrote back to her with an unexpected response:

boss' email response
Madalyn Parer
Madalyn Parer

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

Madalyn didn’t expect her email to be received with such praise and understanding.

Some Good News For Once

According to studies, adults who spend too much time online are more likely to have symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. The internet, and the social media platforms its home to, are one of the leading contributors to depression as they cause a heightened level of psychological arousal, which makes it harder to sleep, eat, or even exercise. They say that young adults who spend the most time on social media have a higher rate of reported depression.

tweet: when the CEO responds to your out of the office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision.
Madalyn Parker
Madalyn Parker

However, this time, the internet had good news. Madalyn was moved by her CEO’s response and shared it on Twitter. The tweet went viral with 45,000 likes and 16,000 retweets.

“It’s nice to see some warm, fuzzy feelings pass around the internet for once,” she wrote on Twitter: “I’ve been absolutely blown away by the magnitude, though. I didn’t expect so much attention!”

A Feeling shared By Many

Madalyn’s tweet was validating. Almost all of us have had a day where we felt overwhelmed and like even just opening our eyes was a daunting task. We likely brushed off our feelings, feeling like we must put our needs aside to keep up with our responsibilities. This message showed that it’s okay to honor our bodies and minds. It’s okay to take that time every once in a while to re-energize and heal rather than constantly deplete ourselves.

Madalyn Parker Via BoredPanda
Madalyn Parker Via BoredPanda

“Thanks for giving me hope that I can find a job as I am,” wrote one person, who opened up about living with panic attacks. “That is bloody incredible, said another. “What a fantastic CEO you have.”

Vacation Vs Sick Days

The tweet also started an interesting conversation about using vacation days versus sick days. Most people have more vacation days than sick days but would prefer to keep their purposes separated. Vacation is a time set aside to have fun and rejuvenate, while sick days are usually spent feeling bad in bed and not helping depression symptoms.

Tweet: But
AcohenNY / Twitter
AcohenNY / Twitter

One user asked: “aren’t vacations intended to improve our mental well-being? Madalyn explains that there is a difference in how we think of sick days and vacation days and in how that time is actually being spent.

One user agreed and shared: “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.”

“Mental Health Is Health”

The main argument is that sick days shouldn’t just be used for COVID or the flu because mental health also has both physical and emotional symptoms that equally put the body out of commission. Both need to be given a minute to recover:

woman-at-a-flower-field put her arms up
Maksim Goncharenok / Pexels
Maksim Goncharenok / Pexels

“The bottom line is that mental health is health,” Madalyn explains. “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.”

The Stigma Around Mental Health

Madalyn hopes that by sharing her CEO’s response, she helps remove the stigma that is sadly still present around mental health. Not everyone has a CEO who is as understanding of an employee’s mental health needs.

Lisa Fotios / Pexels
Lisa Fotios / Pexels

Mental health prevents employees from speaking up when they need help or need a break. They fear that they will be seen as “weak” and incompetent and feel like they have to push through no matter what to keep their jobs and reputation. Work is not more important than health.

The Push Of Modern Society

The idea of work coming above health is a symptom of our modern society. People are always expected to give and accept the circumstances of their organizations. We forget that we’re just humans with a battery that runs out eventually and that needs to be recharged.

Krizjohn Rosales / Pexels
Krizjohn Rosales / Pexels

Ben Congleton, the CEO of Parker’s company, even joined the conversation himself and shared: “We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance.” He added: “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.”

Take Care Of You

Sometimes you just have to put yourself first. Work will still always be there, but the longer you ignore your health, the worst it will become. If you’re looking for a sign on whether you need a change then you’re here for a reason. This is your sign.

Madalyn smiling in selfie
Madalyn Parker Via BoredPanda
Madalyn Parker Via BoredPanda

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Aria Misty

Aria Misty is a recent university grad. She did her undergrad in media, information & technoculture with a Master in Journalism & Communications in 2018.

Aria has a particular interest in all things astrology and spirituality. This is driven by her desire to create healing. In fact, Aria went back to school for A master’s in counseling p[…]