Unfortunately, many work environments tend to promote the idea that sick days should only be taken under circumstances of physical ailments -- a sore throat, a stomach virus, you know the drill.
But an employee's mental health deserves the same recognition and care as their physical well-being, especially in the workplace.
Madalyn Parker, a web developer at Olark Live Chat who suffers from chronic depression and anxiety, is one of few in this society who are not afraid to speak out when she needs a mental break from work.
And thankfully, her CEO couldn't have been more supportive of her honesty.
Reaching out to her co-workers to explain why she'd be taking a few days off, Parker received a heartwarming response from Ben Congleton, the CEO of Olark, who thanked and even praised her for speaking out.
Thrilled by Congleton's supportive response, Parker took to Twitter to share his amazing email.
Congleton wrote to Parker in his email,
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.
Twitter echoed Congleton's support, and people basically want to quit their own jobs to go work for him.
But, as inspiring as Congleton is in his recognition of mental health's importance in the workplace, this conversation still has a considerable way to go.
In a second tweet, Parker encouraged her Twitter followers to speak up:
The truth is, when your mental health is compromised, it can be just as debilitating as a physical illness.
According to MentalHealth.gov, mental health specifically refers to your “emotional, psychological, and social well-being” and, depending on its state, can have a positive or negative effect on how you think, feel, and act toward others.
Whether you consciously think about it or not, your mental health affects every single aspect of your life. It can, and does, fluctuate as a result of your environment, schedules, responsibilities, and more.
So why is it that the subject is too often avoided in work and social environments?
Responding to the outpour of overwhelming support, Congleton wrote a blog post for Medium.com to further express his disappointment in the lack of communication when it comes to mental health in the workplace.
As executives, we lead organizations made up of people who've come together to make an impact. Our job is to empower and motivate our teams to maximize the impact of our organization for our customers, our employees, our shareholders, and the world. At Olark our mission is to make business human, and from these comments it's clear that not all leaders see the opportunity to increase impact by focusing on the humans that make up their organization.
So why, then, is it so difficult to open up about mental health in a corporate environment?
Unfortunately, feelings of stress and anxiety have become strongly associated with weakness, particularly in the work environment.
LeaAnne DeRigne, an associate professor of social work at Florida Atlantic University, told BBC,
No one's allowed to be sick. Sickness is weakness. The attitude is 'I'm irreplaceable -- if I don't show up, my job won't get done.' Some of it is also concern about how you are going to be viewed as an employee -- whether you can be counted on or not. Whether by having too many sick days, too many absences, you are not seen as reliable. At the very core of being American is the idea of being a hard worker.
There is nothing weak about recognizing and feeling these natural, deep-rooted emotions.
If you can take away anything from Parker and Congleton, it's that speaking up and speaking out is a sign of strength, not weakness.