Life Wellbeing Note to employee taking a mental health day makes CEO a global hero
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Note to employee taking a mental health day makes CEO a global hero

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The way this CEO handled an employee dealing with mental health issues has gone far in raising awareness. Photo: Getty
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A CEO’s heartwarming email in response to an employee’s request for a sick day to focus on her mental health has gone viral.

Web developer Madalyn Parker from Michigan emailed her colleagues at the end of June to give them notice that she would be taking two days of sick leave due to mental health reasons.

“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 per cent,” she wrote in the email.

She was not the only one to be pleasantly surprised by the positive response she received from her CEO Ben Congleton.

“I use (your email) as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health – I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organisations,” Mr Congleton wrote.

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

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Source: Twitter

Ms Parker was so taken aback by his refreshingly encouraging email that she shared the email exchange to Twitter.

It has since attracted more than 14,000 retweets and 40,000 likes, with hundreds of people worldwide praising Mr Congleton’s handling of mental health.

The CEO later wrote a piece for Medium, reflecting on the importance of recognising mental health in the workplace setting.

“Even in the safest environment it is still uncommon to be direct with your co-workers about mental health issues. I wanted to call this out and express gratitude for Madalyn’s bravery in helping us normalise mental health as a normal health issue,” he wrote.

“As executives, we lead organisations made up of people who’ve come together to make an impact. Our job is to empower and motivate our teams to maximise the impact of our organisation for our customers, our employees, our shareholders, and the world.”

Courtney Landers, an expert in mental illness in the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge in Britain, lauded Mr Congleton’s response, saying it showed empathy “without making a big deal”.

“It’s precisely what you’d expect if you had a cold, or food poisoning,” Ms Landers said. “In that way, it normalises mental health ‘dips’ and the need to take breaks to stay healthy.

“You can’t expect a brain exposed to long hours and high stress to work at peak performance for very long. Brains, bodies, machines; all three will break down under stress if not maintained properly.
“I’m hopeful that as more CEOs and employers get on board with this idea, we’ll see work practices start to change, allowing people to keep themselves physically, socially and mentally healthy, which in the long run will be best for business,” she said.