Mental Health in the Workplace — Should You Tell Your Boss?

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Mental health is a topic that has garnered some well overdue attention throughout the country as of late. Old, judgmental ways of viewing mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders continue to slowly dissipate as more information and research is initiated into a nationwide conversation. While of course there is still stigma surrounding mental illness, it, too, is dissipating. What does this mean for the American people? And what does it mean for mental health in the workplace?

Mental health in the workplace is something that is slowly but surely being recognized. Great progress has been made in terms of employers honoring the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. This is exhibited through expanding vacation times, accommodating personal needs, and encouraging self-care. But one aspect regarding mental health is that it still seems to be complicated for many to talk to their boss about their mental state. Of course, this is normal, as most people do not want to willingly give out great deals of information to their boss, especially when it is as personal as a mental health issue. But, speaking to your boss about your mental health in the workplace can sometimes be extremely beneficial. Attempting to determine if you should tell your boss about your mental health can be difficult, which is why it is important to consider all of the factors that can come into play. 

Telling Your Boss About Your Mental Health

When considering whether to involve your boss into your mental health and wellbeing or not, it is important to consider a number of different factors. You want to strike a healthy balance in the workplace with your boss so that you can get the support you need while also continuing to be treated appropriately. Prior to discussing this topic with your boss, consider the following:

  • Amount of information shared — You are not required to share details about your mental illness with your boss. You do not even have to inform them of the type of mental illness you are experiencing. Those types of details can remain private if you wish. 
  • Consider timing — It is likely that if you are considering discussing your mental health with your boss, it is a topic that is important to you. Therefore, consider the timing of your conversation. Try to avoid bringing this to your boss’s attention when phone lines are ringing off the hook or deadlines are struggling to be met. Instead, consider reaching out to your boss during a more calmer time, such as first thing in the morning, at the end of the day, or any other period of time where they are typically available and not under any undue stress. 
  • Speak to HR — You might have an excellent relationship with your boss, allowing you to feel comfortable in sharing your mental health in the workplace. But, you may not have as comfortable of a relationship with your boss as you would wish, which is why there is HR. Employees of the HR department can help you navigate any situation in a manner that protects your rights and provides you comfort at the same time. They can also be present during the conversation you have with your boss to ensure that your interaction is appropriately recorded. 
  • Know Your Rights — Under the American Disability Act (ADA), you have workplace rights when it comes to how you are treated in regards to your mental health. For example, you cannot be fired or discriminated against because of your mental illness. So, prior to having this conversation with your boss, rest assured that you cannot be fired for opening up about your psychological state. This is also a good reminder to involve HR in your conversation with your boss, because even though it is illegal to fire or discriminate against someone because of their mental illness, it still happens. This is unfortunate, but the truth of the matter is that many people in positions of power will find other reasons to terminate someone even though they really desired to do so because of their mental illness. 
  • Have documentation ready — If you are bringing up your mental health in the workplace to your boss for the purpose of receiving accommodations, it is proactive to have documentation on hand. For example, if you require therapy sessions on certain days or times that coincide with your work, you may bring in documentation from your therapist stating the necessity of these therapy sessions. Or, if you struggle with a mental illness like a social anxiety disorder, a note from your therapist explaining the extent of your anxiety can help you and your boss develop a plan on how to handle social events in the workplace. 

Know that your boss is not permitted to disclose any of the information you share with them to others. This can help you feel comfortable in knowing that what your conversation consisted of is not going to get back to your coworkers. Again, if you have any concerns regarding your rights during this conversation, getting HR involved is key. 

Treatment in California

We understand how difficult it can be to cope with a mental illness, especially when also trying to uphold a job and personal life. If you are struggling to balance it all, do not give up. Reach out to us right now to get the support you need.

At Launch Centers, we work to provide top-of-the-line treatment for substance use disorders and mental health conditions. We utilize evidence-based practices to ensure that each one of our clients is receiving the most advanced care possible.

If you or a loved one are grappling with a mental health condition and/or a substance use disorder, contact us right now. We can help you overcome the challenges you face so that you can begin to live a happy, healthy, well-balanced life.

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