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Mental Health and Work: Should You Talk to Your Employer?

Like many working adults, you may find it hard to disclose too much of your personal life at work. You may talk about the kids here and there, but your health is rarely the subject of conversation — and certainly not your mental health. Mental health and work just don’t seem to mix.

This is a situation that employees across the country face. They don’t always feel comfortable telling their co-workers or employer about their mental health condition, partly due to the myth that people with mental illnesses can’t keep up in the workplace. They may also be concerned about how others will view them, since there is a strong stigma about mental health conditions.

Your health is private, so you don’t need to feel pressured to talk to others about it. However, if your employer knows, they may be able to give you accommodations (e.g. paid time off for therapist appointments, extensions on certain deadlines), and know what to do if you have a mental health emergency at the office.

Here is what you need to know if you are considering talking to your boss, coworkers, or employer about your mental health condition:

Mental Health and Work Performance

A mental health condition is “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood.” These thoughts and feelings can disrupt your everyday activities and cause you to act out of your usual character.

If you have one of these conditions, you may have trouble with common, necessary workplace skills, including:

  • Focusing
  • Remembering details
  • Thinking clearly
  • Organizing thoughts
  • Starting and stopping activities
  • Processing

How to Tell Your Employer, Boss, or Co-workers About Your Mental Illness

There are three significant things to remember about talking about your mental illness at work.

  1. Do it when you’re ready. There’s no pressure to do this right away. Your privacy and safety are more important in this situation. If you are not comfortable talking about your mental health condition at all, then that may mean you still need time — and that’s OK.
  2. Discuss solutions. Employers like solutions, so if you come prepared with solutions to help you perform better with your mental illness, your boss might appreciate it more. Make a list of ideas for accommodations that you might need to help get you through your work day, and present them when you’re informing your employer about your condition.
  3. Educate yourself and others. Stay informed about mental health, both at work and at home. When you make an effort to learn the successes and failures of others, you create a safer work environment. Be an example to your boss and coworkers about how they should treat other employees with mental health issues.

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