After she asked for a mental health day, a screenshot of her boss' response went viral.


This article originally appeared on 07.11.17

Madalyn Parker wanted to take a couple days off work. She didn't have the flu, nor did she have plans to be on a beach somewhere, sipping mojitos under a palm tree.

Parker, a web developer from Michigan, wanted a few days away from work to focus on her mental health. Photo courtesy of Madalyn Parker.

Parker lives with depression. And, she says, staying on top of her mental health is absolutely crucial.

"The bottom line is that mental health is health," she says over email. "My depression stops me from being productive at my job the same way a broken hand would slow me down since I wouldn't be able to type very well."

She sent an email to her colleagues, telling them the honest reason why she was taking the time off.

"Hopefully," she wrote to them, "I'll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%."

Soon after the message was sent, the CEO of Parker's company wrote back:

"Hey Madalyn,

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."

Moved by her CEO's response, Parker posted the email exchange to Twitter.

The tweet, published on June 30, 2017, has since gone viral, amassing 45,000 likes and 16,000 retweets.

"It's nice to see some warm, fuzzy feelings pass around the internet for once," Parker says of the response to her tweet. "I've been absolutely blown away by the magnitude though. I didn't expect so much attention!"

Even more impressive than the tweet's reach, however, were the heartfelt responses it got.

"Thanks for giving me hope that I can find a job as I am," wrote one person , who opened up about living with panic attacks. "That is bloody incredible," chimed in another . "What a fantastic CEO you have."

Some users, however, questioned why there needs to be a difference between vacation time and sick days; after all, one asked , aren't vacations intended to improve our mental well-being?

That ignores an important distinction, Parker said — both in how we perceive sick days and vacation days and in how that time away from work is actually being spent.

"I took an entire month off to do partial hospitalization last summer and that was sick leave," she wrote back. "I still felt like I could use vacation time because I didn't use it and it's a separate concept."

Many users were astounded that a CEO would be that understanding of an employee's mental health needs.

They were even more surprised that the CEO thanked her for sharing her personal experience with caring for her mental health.

After all, there's still a great amount of stigma associated with mental illness in the workplace , which keeps many of us from speaking up to our colleagues when we need help or need a break to focus on ourselves. We fear being seen as "weak" or less committed to our work. We might even fear losing our job .

Ben Congleton, the CEO of Parker's company, Olark , even joined the conversation himself.

In a blog post on Medium , Congleton wrote about the need for more business leaders to prioritize paid sick leave, fight to curb the stigma surrounding mental illness in the workplace, and see their employees as people first.

"It's 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance," Congleton wrote. "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."

Comments / 83

Vickie Andrus

This is the kind of employer that employees need!! He’s kind, caring, compassionate and understands about depression. She was very honest about why she needed the time off as most would not be. There are many different kinds of depression and is considered a mental illness. One can not simply shake it off, that’s like saying people with bipolar or schizophrenia should just shake it off. Sometimes, you can go for months and be ok but then a crash sets in. You can even have psychosis with depression. So don’t judge if you know nothing about depression!!

Doreene Anderson

i love this article. I deal with depression. it hits you so fast take all your energy and concentration. being in this state at work can be embarassing. i feel her coworkers would want her to take care of herself first.


I think this is an amazing step forward. One thing the older generation doesn’t seem to understand is your job doesn’t define your value in this world. Working yourself to the bone or to death proves nothing. Except that you are willing to give your life to a company that will replace you without a second thought. Take care of yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. You are also more than your job/career and your are no less important if you need time to yourself. I work with several different generations and it is something we remind each other. You are more than your job and life is short take care of yourself.


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