Mental health issues are real, and can be debilitating. However, it’s often difficult for people who don’t deal with these issues on a daily basis to understand and empathize, and as such, mental health issues are often treated as “imaginary” or “lesser than.” This type of attitude coerces these particular individuals to simply suffer in silence, particularly in a work environment.
After all, it’s sadly not uncommon for an employee to be fired due to having an excess of personal issues, regardless of how competent they are at performing their job.
Recently, Madalyn Parker sent out an Out Of Office email to her team at Olark Live Chat. The email specified that she would be taking two days off to focus on her mental health.
The CEO of Madalyn’s company then responded in a surprising fashion, thanking her profusely for being so candid about the importance of utilizing sick days for mental health.
Madalyn shared the email exchange to Twitter with the permission of her boss, where it quickly garnered over 35,000 favorites and 11,000 retweets.
People were heartened to see a CEO who was so supportive of his employee’s mental health.
Ben Congleton, the CEO who responded so compassionately, went on to write a post on Medium about mental health awareness in the work environment. According to his post, Congleton is amazed that mental health issues are still treated as though they are not on par with other illnesses:
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.
It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health.
It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.
And that is really crux of Congleton’s entire argument: when you spend your entire day executing at “peak mental performance,” getting occasionally burnt out is inevitable. Allowing employees to take the time they need to recharge and get in a motivated headspace isn’t coddling. Rather, it’s adjusting to the new realities of the developing workplace.
Here’s hoping that this “radical” idea spreads to other office environments — because that’s one of the only ways we as a society will be able to de-stigmatize mental health issues.