More Americans are affected by mental health issues than you think, yet we treat the problem as taboo — especially in the workplace.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 17.9 percent of all Americans reported having a mental illness. But only about 50 percent of working Americans report that their senior management values their employees' well-being, a 2016 survey by the American Psychological Association reported.
So when Michigan-based software developer Madalyn Parker's CEO replied to her email saying she was taking two mental health days, she was so moved by his support, that the email immediately went viral, according to CNN.
"I was absolutely touched," she told CNN. "It brought tears to my eyes. It was surprising to be applauded for my vulnerabiity."
When the CEO responds to your out of the office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision. ?? pic.twitter.com/6BvJVCJJFq— madalyn (@madalynrose) June 30, 2017
"I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this," Ben Congleton, the CEO of Olark, said in his email. "Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental — 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 all bring our selves to work."
"When the CEO responds to your out of office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision," Parker said in her tweet, which captioned Congleton's email.
Parker, who suffers from chronic anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, decided to take the leave after experiencing a recent bout of insomnia and suicidal thoughts, she told CNN.
On July 6, Congleton addressed his viral email in a Medium post. "When an athlete is injured, they sit on the bench and recover," he wrote. "Let's get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different."
Allison Abrams, a New York-based psychotherapist, agrees with this sentiment. "Taking a mental health day is taking care of your emotional well-being, which is no less important than your physical well-being," she told USA Today, adding the physical illnesses are often traced back to our emotional states.
This conversation about mental health doesn't leave out children either. Recently, a mother's Facebook post went viral when it discussed that her son wouldn't accept his perfect attendance award, Bustle reported. The mother, Rachel Wright, called out the award as being unfair to those who can't attend school every day because of chronic health issues.
Hopefully this viral email will compel more individuals to challenge the stigma of mental health in the workplace.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Flickr user Andy Davies