How to disclose your mental illness to the employer is a common question raised in the corporate world. Since mental health issues like depression and anxiety are affecting millions of individuals, including those from the corporate world, many people continue to live under the burden of questions like should I tell my employer about my mental illness?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), stress and anxiety are affecting employees’ workplace performance (56 percent), relationship with coworkers and peers (51 percent), quality of work (50 percent) and relationships with superiors (43 percent).
The numbers are speaking loud enough to make one understand the ways in which mental issues can affect an individual’s professional life. Therefore, disclosing mental illness to your employer is one such step that would help not only the employee, but also the employer in understanding the situation, especially if the employee’s performance is deteriorating at work.
Employers value their employees
Disclosing mental illness at work is a personal choice, but is highly advisable. Sharing the details about your mental illness with your boss can increase the probability of getting support and care to overcome the problem. Your employer might be able to understand your trouble and might be co-operative and helpful.
However, the situation cannot be so positive and welcoming all the time. Looking at the stigma surrounding mental illness, there is a possibility that not all the bosses would be tolerant enough to accept mental illnesses and their repercussions. But things are gradually changing.
To some extent, people have now realized that the change can be brought about by the patients themselves. It is they who need to accept their problem first, without judging themselves, and then only can they convince others to see the brighter side. Now, people on the other side of the table are also changing their viewpoint about mental illness. A new dawn is being observed at workplaces as well.
What happened when an employee took sick leave for mental health?
Recently Madalyn Parker, a web developer dealing with some mental health issues, wrote a mail to her team that she was taking leave to focus on her mental health. And the encouraging response from the organization’s Chief Executive Officer will surely go down in the annals of history. His honest email, reminding people of the importance of using sick days for mental health, has gone viral, and reminds us of the fact that we need more people of this kind to tackle the discrimination against people with mental disorders
Considering the fact that now employers are getting courteous and tolerant towards individuals dealing with mental problems, the answer to questions like ‘should I tell my boss about my mental health’ will certainly be a yes. But the major issue that employees encounter is how to disclose a mental illness to the employer.
Certainly, there are a number of approaches to keep your employer informed about your mental health, but the best one varies from person to person. Therefore, in order to make things better and simpler for you, we share with you some simple tips to understand how to explain depression at work or any other mental illness to your boss.
- Be clear and concise
It is important for every individual to understand to be clear and concise in every conversation with the boss. This will help save the patient’s time, and will also make the employer believe that the other person values his or her time. There is a probability that discussing your mental health issue with your boss might prompt him/her to make reasonable adjustments to your workplace settings, such as flexible work hours, friendly work environment, more regular catch-ups with your manager, etc.
- Be honest
It is good to be honest about the things you say and feel. But it is equally important to be cautious when talking about your mental health issues with your boss. One must try and keep the conversation as short as possible. It is important to avoid sharing too many personal details with the employer, instead, he/she should restrict his/her focus on his/her plight. Remember, it’s important to be open but only to an extent that’s essential to win the required help.
- Talk about it as a physical health issue
When talking to your boss about your mental problem, you must remember that the top priority for the boss would be business profits. Therefore, it is important to ensure that productivity and performance at work are included in the conversation about mental health issues. This will not only help the employer understand the plight of his/her employees but will also raise an alarm about the increasing losses to the company.
- Decide how much you want to share
Follow a healthy pattern of communication. This implies that one should be clear about the extent to which he/she wishes to share the details of his/her mental illness. Avoid sharing in-depths details like history of a family member affected by mental illness, the ways it deteriorated their lives, other health issues in the family, etc. Doing so might lead to the employer to take a prejudiced decision.
- Find a suitable time
It is important to make sure that you do not go to your manager to discuss your mental health issues haphazardly. Make sure that you plan a meeting beforehand and be there on time. It is also important to keep the key pointers ready and talk to the point. In case, he/she loves to interact, it is best to have a detailed discussion with him/her about the same. But make sure that you do not cross your boundaries.
If you are facing difficulty in discussing it with your manager or think that he/she is not the right person to discuss your problem, it is better to seek help from your HR team without delay.
- Be informed about your legal rights
The federal government has framed a set of laws to make workplace safe for employees. It is obligatory for every employer to follow these rules and ensure that the rights of every employee are safeguarded.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures maximum protection to employees dealing with any form of physical or mental impairment. It is important for every employee to be aware that ADA does not mention any specific condition as a disability. Rather, it focuses on the symptoms, both mental and physical, that limit an individual’s ability to perform daily life activities. This implies that an individual is considered to be disabled on the basis of symptoms developed by him/her and not the condition. In case an employee is found to be the one dealing with mental health issue, he/she is entitled to get reasonable accommodations from the employer if providing these help in maintaining the job performance.
- Be cautious when using social media
Social media has become an integral part of everyone’s life. Therefore, it is important for a person affected by mental illness to be cautious when using these platforms. It is possible that an employer might be comfortable with you posting your mental health status online, but on the other hand, he/she might not be fine with it. Therefore, be sure about what you share online and that it does not offend your employer.
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- Know what to expect
Be aware of what to expect from your employer. Talk to your employer and let him/her know about the time that you would require to recover from a particular condition, the ways in which he/she can offer help, etc. It is possible that the employer would be fine with you taking off for few days to seek help for your mental illness. But make sure that the expectations are realistic and do not overburden the employer.
- Do not give up
It is very likely that your employer might not accept your condition. But make sure that this does not make you feel low or demotivated. Remember that mental health issues are still a stigma and even while a lot of people are changing their attitude, it will still take time to create a welcoming environment for those dealing with mental illness. Be calm and patient about the situation. Do not lose hope even if the employer does not respond the way you expected him/her to. Instead, encourage a positive environment at workplace and encourage programs for stress management to bring in the change soon.
- Seek help from a mental health professional
It is ok to take help from a mental health professional to let your employer know about the severity of your condition. An experienced mental health professional is the one who can act as a reliable source of information for the employer and assure him/her that the person concerned is actually in need of help.
Though the situation is improving and people are changing their mindset regarding mental illnesses, those with mental illness continue to think twice before saying yes to questions like should I tell my employer I have depression or any other mental illness. The situation should be handled with utmost care. Individuals should make sure that talking to their employers about their mental health condition does not affect their job and they stay safe at work. Seeking professional help on an immediate basis can help one recover and lead a healthy and productive life.