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Worker Takes Mental Health Days, Earns Praise From CEO

Would your CEO thank you for taking a few days off to tend to your mental health? Maybe they should. As a recent story reminds us, mental health is just as crucial an issue for many workers as physical health. But unlike physical ailments, mental health problems aren’t always considered valid reasons for absence from work.
mental health days
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Madalyn Parker, a web developer for the live-chat platform Olark, recently sent out an email to her team to let them know that she’d be taking two days off. So far, so normal, right?

The twist is that she was specific about why she was taking the time off — Parker suffers from anxiety and depression, and the PTO was to deal with those issues — and that her CEO, Ben Congleton, replied to thank her:

The Stigma Around Mental Health Days

Mental health days are often treated like a joke — a get-out-of-the-office free card for someone who’d rather be at a baseball game than compiling reports. But for some workers, they’re as necessary as regular sick time.

“For many professionals managing issues of mental health, there’s nothing scarier than having to explain or detail the need for time off to higher-ups,” writes Megan Shepherd in an earlier post on Career News. “When it comes time to request time for therapy, doctor visits, or time to process grief or exhaustion, the blank in the HR system for ‘Reason for Request’ can feel like a diagnosis all its own.”

After Parker tweeted out her CEO’s response, her timeline filled up with stories of people who’d tried to use PTO to look after their mental health. Some were met with understanding from management; others lost their jobs.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.1 percent of adults in the U.S. dealt with an anxiety disorder during the past year, and 6.7 percent experienced a major depressive episode. Bottom line, it’s likely that at least one of our colleagues may be struggling with mental health issues at any given time. Working in an environment where these issues aren’t a closely guarded secret would help.

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Tell Us What You Think

Do you take mental health days — and if so, do you feel like you have to hide the reason behind them? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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