A woman’s recent email to her boss explaining her decision to take time off for a “mental health day” has gone viral on the internet. The email highlights the fact that there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, especially in the workplace, and that talking about it is an important step in getting better.

Madalyn Parker, a web developer from Michigan who has depression and anxiety, sent her work team an email informing them that she would be taking two days off from work to focus on her mental health, ATTN reported. In reply, her boss thanked her for sending the letter, explaining that it was helpful to remind the rest of the team of the importance of using sick days for mental health.

“You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work,” the email concluded.

“I wanted to call this out and express gratitude for Madalyn’s bravery in helping us normalize mental health as a normal health issue,” Parker’s CEO Ben Congleton wrote in a separate post published on Medium about the experience.

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Neither Parker nor Congleton had any idea that their exchange would garner such a response. In a separate post, Congleton expressed his frustration that mental health is still stigmatized both in and outside of work.

“It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance,” wrote Congleton on Medium. “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.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent — experience mental illness in a given year. These range from major depression, bipolar disorder, to even schizophrenia. Untreated, these illnesses can have serious consequences, and mood disorders, such as depression, are the third major cause of hospitalization for Americans aged 18-44.

What’s more, anxiety disorders, such as Parker's, are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18 percent of the population, The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reported.

A 2014 study measuring mental illness in America found that New Jersey had the lowest rates of reported mental illness, while Utah had the most cases, but West Virginia had the most extreme cases. However, the study could not conclude as to why there are differences in mental health statuses throughout the country, Newsweek reported. All in all, the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest had higher rates of mental illness than other regions in the U.S.

Either way, the statistics show just how widespread mental illness actually is - yet another reason to remove the stigma of taking time to work on health.

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