'Mental health day' tweets spark discussion about stigma

- Many of us have joked about it at some point "I need a mental health day" because you're exhausted or stressed. Sometimes something personal is happening and you don't feel comfortable sharing what it is with your boss.

One woman in Michigan shared her experience online and it wound up sparking a national debate: should companies take mental health days seriously?

When Madalyn Parker sent an email to her team at work saying she was taking some mental health days off, she never expected the email she got back from her boss applauding the 26-year-old for her decision.

"I can't believe this is not standard practice at all organizations," wrote CEO Ben Congleton. "You are an example to us all."

Congleton and Parker work at Michigan-based tech firm Olark. Parker herself suffers from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She was so surprised by her CEO's response that she posted it on her Twitter page. And soon people all over the country chimed in. Many said they wish their bosses were more understanding.

In an interview, Congleton said, "I think the biggest lesson to take away from this really is that mental health is health and that mental illness is a big deal."

And some psychologists say that time away from the daily grind can help and might even make employees more productive when they come back.

"Employees need opportunities to feel refreshed, they need opportunities for self-care to take care of themselves for mental health," Dr. Nava Silton said. "They will absolutely be more efficient."

Time Inc. Chief human resource officer Greg Giangrande said that as the stigma of mental health wears off there has been a shift in the corporate world. He said many companies are now offering a certain amount of paid time off rather than breaking down days off as vacation, personal, and sick.

Congleton said he is happy to help push the discussion forward so that eventually a mental health day isn't something we feel we should have to whisper about.

An estimated one in five American adults -- or 43 million people -- experiences mental illness in a given year. 

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