Everyone Who Needs a Mental Health Day Deserves a Reply Like This From Their Boss

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Madalyn Parker tweeted an email exchange with her boss, Ben Congleton, to show how an employer should react when someone needs a mental health day.

Read the full version of Everyone Who Needs a Mental Health Day Deserves a Reply Like This From Their Boss.

Read the full transcript:

Everyone Who Needs a Mental Health Day Deserves a Reply Like This From Their Boss

Madalyn Parker, a web developer and engineer at Olark Live Chat, took a few days off for her mental health.

The CEO of the company replied to her email.

He set a new precedent for how a boss should respond when someone needs a mental health day.

“Hey team, I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health. Hopefully I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%[.] Thanks[,] Madalyn”

“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 other importance of using sick days for mental health – I can’t believe this is a 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.”

In a Medium post, Parker’s boss, Ben Congleton, reflected on the email exchange going viral.

“In situations like this, it is so easy to tell your teammates you are ‘not feeling well.’” -Ben Congleton, Medium.com

“Even in the safest environment it is still uncommon to be direct with your coworkers about mental health issues.”

“I wanted to call this out and express gratitude for Madalyn’s bravery in helping us normalize mental health as a normal health issue.”

Kudos to Madalyn for being honest…

And her boss Ben for showing us how far compassion can go in the workplace.

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'Inpatient' Takes You Inside a 72-Hour Stay at a Psychiatric Hospital

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When Alana Zablocki first started working on “Inpatient,” she wanted to explain her own psychiatric hospitalization — an experience that had always been hard for her to describe. Now, her interactive novel is available for anyone to “play,” and takes a reader through 72 hours in a psychiatric hospital, shedding light on what it’s like in a place so many still find mysterious. 

The “72 hours” time-frame is significant. Although the main character, Jessica, checks herself into the hospital voluntarily, 72 hours is typically how long a hospital can hold a patient who is there involuntarily.

“In a psychiatric ward, you lose a lot of power. You’re giving away some of your own personal agency,” Zablocki, who lives in Canada, told The Mighty. “This loss of power, regardless of how well they treat you, can be traumatizing — but especially if you’re not being treated well. Even in any other [hospital] situation, the doctors or nurses have a certain level of power… But especially in the mental health system, you’re giving up a lot.”

Zablocki, who has a background in programming, said she was inspired by other interactive fiction games like Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest.

The simulation starts in the middle of a mental health crisis. You (playing as Jessica) feel hopeless and suicidal, so you take a taxi to your local psychiatric hospital. What you do from there is up to you, and in “choose your own adventure” style, the different decisions you make effect what happens in the story. From smaller decisions (What should you do while you’re waiting in the ER? Stare at the wall or read a newspaper?) to larger ones (Your doctor asks if you’re suicidal. Do you tell him the truth?), the text you read changes depending on what you choose. You meet other patients, nurses and therapists — Zablocki said it was important to her that there was a diverse cast of characters, so the game features people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community. Although the story is based on Zablocki’s experience, all the people you meet are fictional.

For those who’ve been hospitalized, the game can bring forward familiar feelings.

We asked a few people in our Mighty community who’ve been in psychiatric hospitals to go through the simulation and tell us if “Inpatient” reflects their experiences.

Stephanie Trzyna, who lives with depression and anxiety, said, for the most part, the simulation was accurate to her experiences. She’s been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward twice. She told us:

“Jessica’s feelings I could wholeheartedly relate to.  The shame, the guilt, [feeling like] no one will care if I die. One phrase of hers struck me, ‘… You listen to your brain replay the events leading you here. It repeats again, and again, and again. It is physically painful to keep thinking, but you can’t find a way to stop it.’ This was me.”

Madelyn Heslet, who lives with bipolar and borderline personality disorder, described the game as “spot on,” and said she especially related to the friendships Jessica fosters, and how uncomfortable her bedroom was.

“I definitely believe this game is a valuable resource that could be used to teach mental health professionals how to better themselves and their policies in mental health wards. It could also be valuable for family members and friends of those admitted because they could play the game and gain an understanding of what their loved one is going through.”

Alicia Raimundo, who’s also been hospitalized for her mental health, said while she thinks a simulation like this is important, it could definitely be a trigger for those sensitive to the topic. “I would really caution folks without spoons or having bad days not to engage with it,” she said. “Inpatient” does start with a trigger warning, which reads, “Please do not play this game if you’re in a bad place — especially if you’re in a crisis.”

As far as what she hopes others will take away from going through “Inpatient,” Zablocki says her main goals are to increase empathy towards people who find themselves in these situations, and for mental health professionals to have a window into what this experience is like from a patient’s perspective.

I just want them to understand what I’ve been though a bit better. I think we need more empathy for people who access psychiatric care,” she said. “Especially video gaming, we need more representations that aren’t horror movies. Not to say it’s a fun time. But we’re all regular people interacting with this system.”

You can play “Inpatient” here. It’s free to play, but there is an option to donate.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Thinkstock photo via Pablo_K

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Just Because I Smile, Doesn't Mean I Am 'Well'

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For the rest of my life, I will live with a serious mental illness, a diagnosis I am still trying to understand. For the rest of my life, I will struggle immensely with my mental health, with the demon in my head. I will have challenging moments, severe depressive episodes, moments of bleakness and emptiness, numerous days of living under blankets feeling hopeless and depressed or too anxious and paranoid to leave my home. I will have days when I am a detached version of myself, feeling lost and spaced out from the world around me, I will have difficult moments when I refuse to see anyone including those in my care circle, where just breathing is too much, too overwhelming. I will have moments of exhaustion, where the anxiety takes over my body and my mind. I will have moments of obsessional and intrusive thoughts when ignoring them isn’t an option, I will have days where I struggle immensely and just the thought of surviving is enough.

Although I may have days when I manage these symptoms better than other days, I may have moments when leaving my home is no longer a problem. I may have days when I do get dressed or manage to eat a sufficient meal other than just toast or cereal. I may have a 10 minute realization that I do have a healthy mind… (until I collapse and cry, trembling with fact that I will forever struggle). I may have moments when I am able to walk to a supermarket with little anxiety. I may have moments when talking to a stranger doesn’t fill me with suspicion. I may have moments when walking to an appointment or into a busy area doesn’t fill me with paranoia. I don’t know what the future holds for me — I don’t think too far in advance. I try to take each day as it goes or even take each minute as they tick along.

However what I do know is I can still smile, I can still laugh, I can still be a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a cousin and a niece. I can still be all those things. I can still be a creative person. I will always love cats. I will probably always drink endless cups of tea. I will always prefer even numbers to odd numbers. I will probably still talk to myself out loud in public places, make faces at myself, laugh at myself. I will probably always prefer the company of cats to humans. But I don’t know for sure. I don’t know if I will change. I don’t know if my mental health will change for the better or the worse.

But what I do know is I will struggle immensely with my mental health, each day, each hour, each minute will be different from the last. I may look different or seem different from time to time — that could be due to lots of things, from medication changing my body, to lack of sleep giving me heavy dark baggy eyes or even the good makeup hiding the tired eyes. Maybe sitting in the sunshine gave me rosy cheeks or I may be in a better mood because I befriended a cat or stroked a dog and that made me smile and relax a little. Or maybe I look pale because I’ve been hiding away in my home or may have messy hair because the depression has sprung taking away any motivation or care to look after my appearance. I may look different from time to time, because everyone looks different from time to time. Sometimes we don’t have the energy to look beautiful all the time or be all sunshine and lollipops 24/7.

But what I don’t like is when people say, “Oh, you look well,” “Oh, you sound really well,” “Sounds like you’re doing really well” or assume I am fine based on the fact that I smiled or laughed in their company. My mental illness doesn’t stop me from smiling or laughing — I can still do that.

By telling me “I sound well” or “look well,” you’re suggesting I must be well. I feel I need to give you a secret tale that shows I am doing just that — that I am doing well. I feel I have to make something up in order for that “Oh, you look well” phrase to justify me looking well. When you tell me “I look well,” I feel I have to lie and justify it with a valid reason — and to be honest, I don’t know how to answer that “compliment.”

Please don’t tell me I look well or that I’m doing well. Instead ask, “How are you?” and listen to my answer. Acknowledge the words coming from my mouth. Acknowledge how I am coming across or acknowledge the silence.

I am doing my best to “appear” well in the world and in front of people, in front of the professionals, the pharmacy staff, my family. I am trying my best to look well, but I tell you now I certainly am not well. I don’t even know what that feels like anymore.

Behind closed doors, I’m in my home, hiding under my blanket, trying my best to fight off the intrusive and dangerous thoughts, in tears, in complete isolation. I believe I will always struggle with this. I am always fighting. But just because I smiled or laughed doesn’t mean I am well. It just means I can still smile, that’s all.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via taehoon bae.

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The Day I Knew Therapy Was 'Working'

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Most people probably don’t find life as hard as I and many others living with mental illness do. Getting a bus to a new place, eating, getting dressed, taking a shower, going outside, knowing what you feel and acting (safely) on it are just a tiny number of the many everyday things I struggle with. I can sometimes manage them and sometimes not. Not to mention the big things, like meeting new people, attending events, working.

And it’s not a case of not wanting to do these things. I really want to. I just often find I can’t. It’s very, very difficult to be kind to yourself on days when you can’t do things. It’s much easier to judge, criticize, feel ashamed and engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms.

But today, I did really well. I felt sad because yesterday was hard. I had to go to a new therapy group, and it was too much for me and I ran away — literally. But to be honest, what happened is irrelevant. What I am really pleased about is my response to today’s emotional repercussions.

I did not engage in any harmful activities. Instead, I automatically turned to the skills I have learned in my 18 months of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): mindfulness of emotion, self-compassion, self-care, self-soothe and distract. And it worked. I felt better. I felt my emotions, but I was able to cope. This is a very new thing for me.

Here’s what I’m proud of managing:

1. I knew I was sad.

2. I knew why I was sad.

3. I chose not to wallow in it or avoid it.

4. I communicated with relevant people to update them on where I am, that I am safe and explained my behavior instead of avoiding all contact due to fear and shame.

5. I immediately decided a day of self-care was necessary. I set up my coziest bed nest, and found something to watch that would distract me and make me feel better.

6. I asked for help and comfort from those who can give it to me (small things, like my partner bringing me foods I know I will eat because it’s hard to eat when I feel this way).

7. I felt minimal guilt about taking this day. And every time the guilty feeling pops up, I remind myself I had a long, busy, emotional week last week, and yesterday in particular was very difficult. And I say to myself, “I deserve this, it’s OK to indulge myself, I deserve this.”

This is important, because a year ago, I wouldn’t have done these things. I would have gotten stuck on the first one (I never used to know what I was feeling, and I made every effort to block out all emotions, especially negative ones).

So even while feeling sad, I can reflect on my progress and be proud of myself. Because everyone gets sad when sad things happen, and it’s OK to feel sadness and to give myself comfort and ask for support from others. Self-care is hard, and it takes many forms. Doing it can be hard, especially when guilt gets in the way. But I am doing it, and I am feeling better by the second.

So to anyone out there struggling and wondering if therapy might help, I say, yes! Go for it. I had no idea I could change, but I have and I couldn’t have done it without DBT and an incredibly committed individual therapist. Therapy changed my life and I get better every day.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Mistake Ann.

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21 Secrets of People Who Have Been Hospitalized for a Mental Illness

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It is unfortunate that for many people, hearing the words “mental hospital” can conjure up images of straight jackets and lobotomies — maybe something akin to what you’d see in a horror film. But what some might not realize is that many psychiatric hospitals are a place where people can receive the “round the clock” care they need when they are experiencing a mental health struggle. Just like treatment for a physical illness, psychiatric hospitalization can help patients get back on their feet.

Each person who has been hospitalized for a struggle with mental illness has a different story. And while not everyone has had a positive experience with hospitalization, it is important to remember that no matter what you’ve been told or how you’ve been treated, you are never “too far gone” or unworthy of getting the support you need.

We wanted to know what people who have been hospitalized for a mental illness want others to know, so we asked members of our mental health community to share one thing they wished others knew about their experience.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I’m not ‘crazy.’ Being hospitalized is totally different than what they show in the movies. It’s not people screaming and straight jackets. It’s people walking in their pajamas with blankets wrapped around them going to group and talking or watching movies. The hospital is a safe place where it’s OK to not be OK, where it’s OK to talk about your feelings. The people in the hospital, staff and patients helped save my life so many times, I can’t count!” — Stephanie L.

2. When I was hospitalized I was treated like a criminal. They handcuffed me and took me in a police car. This was after an overdose and I was released from the ICU. I [have] bipolar, social anxiety and PTSD. I lost my brother only a year before this happened to suicide. I want people to know that [mental illness is] just like any other illness, we are not criminals [and] we need medical help just like anyone else. We want to feel like it’s OK to get the help we need, but when we are in that situation, how does it make us feel OK to get help?” — Amanda P.

3. “I’m still human. My ER puts most of the psych patients out in the halls. The nurses give us looks and talk openly about us, making jokes about us. They keep the rooms open for the ‘medical’ patients. Even when I overdosed, I was in a room for maybe an hour, then transferred to the hallway, even still hooked up to all the machines and monitors. And if you’ve been to the same ER for for psych reasons more than once, you’re not even taken seriously. I had one staff who was evaluating me say she didn’t believe I was suicidal and sent me home. You can guess what I tried to do that night. We just want to be taken seriously and treated like human beings.” — Shelby H.

4. “Reintegration is not easy once released. I cannot just go back to cooking, cleaning, socializing and all other activities I used to do before going in. When I came out I was apprehensive of what my next moves or thoughts were going to be. I didn’t know if I trusted myself yet or others around me. I didn’t have a clear connection to how the world viewed me or how I should view the world… I wish people understood that while I was still alive and out of treatment, I needed to relearn how to live.” — Yencris B.

5.I wish people would understand that being hospitalized for a mental illness is no less important than being hospitalized for a physical one. Being hospitalized means you are not feeling your best no matter which part of you is sick. Whether it’s your brain or your leg, [you] should still receive the same compassion and consideration you would give any other person in the hospital.” — Robyn L.

6. It’s not a choice. I can’t turn it off like a radio. It’s not a joke. It doesn’t mean I’m a ‘wimp.’” — Heidi D.

7. “[I wish others understood] the importance of having visitors. It takes guts to visit someone in a psych unit, but there are few more worthwhile things you will ever do.” — Lucy D.

8. “I wish people understood that a hospitalization is acute and meant for rapid, basic stabilization. The hardest thing is the expectation that if you’re admitted for suicidal thoughts you’ll be discharged a week later perfectly happy.” — Rebecca P.

9. “It is not personal if I don’t want visitors. When I tell you not to visit me, it isn’t because I don’t love or care about you or appreciate your support. There are issues I need to work through, I know you are there, but sometimes I don’t want you to see me like that, or have you potentially make triggering comments. I may just need some time to get myself together. It’s not because I don’t love you.” — Madison K.

10. “I am a human being and deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect anyone should have.” — Stephen H.

11. “Getting hospitalized saved my life. It offered me a place to admit to feeling awful, it discharged me from all the mundane tasks I had become incapable of doing and kept me fed and clean. Those four walls with a tiny garden kept me shielded from an environment that made me hurt endlessly. The psychiatric hospital is a place where I met other people just as broken as me, where no one judged the other patients for crying without apparent reason or wanting to stay in bed all day. It was a place where we were allowed to hurt immensely, no matter the reason and to be cared for in accordance.” — Tiny L.

12. “Just because I have major depressive disorder and social anxiety and have been hospitalized several times does not mean I’m unsafe to be around. It also does not mean I’m unworthy of being loved.” — Lisa M.

13. “I wish hospital staff were more compassionate and cared more about their job and the patients. I wish they were more educated about mental illnesses of all kinds and how to properly care for patients with those mental illnesses.” — Erin H.

14. “It’s not my fault. I’m not in control of my behavior. I’m seriously ill. I’m lonely, frightened and lost.” — Kristy O.

15. “It’s not a vacation. It’s not fun or an escape from all life’s problems. It’s like a jail that protects me from hurting myself. It allowed me to stay alive but despite my appearance, I was barely hanging on. Without being hospitalized, without a doubt I would not be here today. Being hospitalized doesn’t make things better, it helps you learn how to cope.” — Kathleen M.

16. “When I’m hospitalized, the loneliness is unbelievably unbearable. It’s physically painful. Visit me. Bring me a pack of smokes. A coloring book. A bag of magazines from the thrift store. A chocolate bar. Hug me, tell me you care. We don’t have to talk, just hang out. Just be with me. Acknowledge me, hug me, love me.” —Spaqem N.

17. “When I am released from the hospital, it doesn’t mean I am back to 100 percent. It seems my loved ones have always had the expectation that things will be all neat and tidy and squared away. The suicidality is no longer there, but oftentimes everything else is. I want loved ones to understand the recovery process is lengthy. I read an article that equated recovering from a mental health episode to an athlete recovering from a marathon. I would ask for patience and understanding and to believe I’m trying so hard to get well.” — Aurie B.

18. “I wish people understood the things that led up to my psychotic break and subsequent three and a half week hospitalization were not things I would do if I wasn’t ill. I wish people didn’t take things personally or judge me.” — Carrie P.

19. “Every time I get hospitalized, it feels like people look down on me like I’m not a fit mother. Just because I struggle with mental illnesses does not mean I can’t be a good mother too. I’m strong enough to know when I need more help and go to the hospital so my children have a mother while growing up.” — Dara M.

20. “No matter what job you do, what background you come from, who you know or where you were educated, mental illness can affect everyone!” — Dinah M.

21. “I’m not ‘crazy,’ I’m Alyssa. That’s what I want others to understand.” — Alyssa H.

Thinkstock photo via KOHb.


21 Secrets of People Who Have Been Hospitalized for a Mental Illness
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Troian Bellisario Writes Essay for Lenny About Life With Mental Illness

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When you live with a mental illness, war can wage between your body and your mind — making it sometimes hard to listen to your needs. This feud is something “Pretty Little Liars” actress Troian Bellisario is familiar with, and something she discusses in a recent personal essay in Lenny.

In the essay, Bellisario, who’s been open about living with an eating disorder, recounts moments when her body was telling her one thing, but her mental illness was saying another.

For example, in the opening scene, she’s swimming laps around an island in a cold lake. Though the cold had sunk down to her bones, she forced herself to keep going, convincing herself that she would otherwise disappoint her friend.

In a similar moment, Bellisario recounts that while they were shooting the “Pretty Little Liars” pilot, they were in temperatures so low her toes started to hurt. Because her co-stars seemed to be handling the cold just fine, she found herself with thoughts such as, “Was I not cut out for this?” and, “Suck it up, Bellisario, do your job.” Eventually, she did speak up and a crew member insisted she go inside. But the interaction left her wondering, “Why did I need a complete stranger’s permission to take care of myself?” She wrote:

As someone who struggles with a mental illness, my biggest challenge is that I don’t always know which voice inside me is speaking. My body voice, the one that says, Troian, I’m cold, get out of the lake, or my illness: You told everyone three times, so you can’t disappoint them. You are not enough. 

This internal narrative, one that questions your own needs, is something many people with mental illnesses can relate to, and fans have expressed their gratitude and admiration for Bellisario’s honesty.

Bellasario has channeled her struggles into “Feed,” a film written, produced by, and starring Bellasario herself, which came out Tuesday. She says, “Writing, producing, and acting in it helped me to get one more degree of separation from my disease in what I know will be a lifetime of work in recovery. It is my greatest hope that someone watching it, struggling with the same challenges I do, might think, What if I were enough too?

Can you relate? Tell us in the comments below.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Header Credit: Pretty Little Liars Facebook page.

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