The Mental Health Day Email Read 'Round The World

By David Konow 07/18/17

An email exchange between an executive and a CEO has sparked a mental health conversation across social media.

woman sitting in front of laptop in office

When Madalyn Parker—an executive at Olark Live Chat—told her staff she was taking a mental health day, it caused a viral sensation, with many applauding her for taking time to regroup mentally.

As People reports, Parker sent the following email to her staff: “Hey team, 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 boss, Olark CEO Ben Congleton, sent his own email, which was then reposted on Twitter: “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 all bring our whole selves to work.”

Before long, the email exchange was linked by over 40,000 people, and had been retweeted over 15,000 times—which isn’t surprising, considering many would love to take mental health days as well, but are afraid to because of the stigma attached to mental distress. One person tweeted, “I once called in to take a mental health day…My boss told me anxiety isn’t a real illness & that I need a doc’s note.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and author of Lean In, shared the Mashable article about the viral sensation and added her own take on the email heard 'round the world: "We need more leaders who encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work." 

CEO Congleton also posted on Medium: “Even in the safest environment it is still uncommon to be direct with your coworkers about your mental health issues. I wanted to call this out and express gratitude for Madalyn’s bravery in helping us normalize mental health as a normal health issue.”

Parker confessed on Medium about struggling with anxiety and depression, and she added, “After repeatedly being told to keep my problems to myself for fear of discrimination, it’s good to know that it actually is possible to be open about mental health (even at work!)…You should never feel like you can’t address your emotional well-being because ‘it’s just not something you talk about at work.’” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.