02 May Stop the World, I Want to Get Off – Today
I decided to work from home today, so I am not wearing my business attire and am writing this from my comfortable couch with a very different view out the window than most weekdays. I called the office and told my boss that I needed a “mental health day,” a phrase I had borrowed.
I was reminded of the tweet that went viral by Madalyn Parker, a Michigan web developer, who suffers from depression and anxiety. She sent an email to her team saying she’d be off for two days to focus on her mental health. Afterward, her boss thanked her for the candor. She shared the exchange on social media last summer, and it’s now been retweeted thousands of times.
When a story like Parker’s goes viral, it shows how difficult it is for many people to talk about their mental health and how rare compassionate responses from employers are. That Parker explicitly named her “mental health” day was seen as an act of courage.
Living a full and blessed life as a mother, wife, daughter, aunt, pet owner, employee, friend, neighbor and member of my community, I find that life can get a bit overwhelming at times. But who doesn’t? Although I have not been diagnosed or suffered through the pain of depression, the weight of some personal pressures were weighing on me and I needed a day away.
Like Madalyn’s boss, mine was enthusiastically understanding and encouraged me to take the time I needed to catch up and get my life organized. I realize for many people it is not that easy and the struggle is very real.
I recently attended an event where the president and CEO of SalusCare, Stacey Cook-Hawk, spoke to the group of attendees and asked everyone for a show of hands if they knew someone in their family or circle of friends with mental illness. Not one hand was left unraised. Then she asked why there is such stigma in this day and age of “who’s your plastic surgeon,” and commercials that outline the embarrassing side effects of numerous pharmaceuticals for hair loss, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction?
The pain of mental illness is often hidden, and the wounds are invisible to others, that is partly why it is so hard to understand. In all of its wonder, the mind is complicated. The sooner we recognize that, honor it, say it out loud, and maybe take time off of work in its name, the sooner we can come together as a society to change the stigma.
Thank you for being part of my mental health day and the important self-care we all deserve and thank you to my employer for understanding the whole person who works there passionately for our mission.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com
For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.