Nearly all of us experience mental health challenges at some point or the other. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adults in the United States suffers from mental issues every year. Moreover, mental healthcare needs attention as over 63% of American adults are a part of the country’s workforce. Despite this, many people are hesitant to take up mental health issues at their workplace. Many are shy or unsure about “how to talk to their employer regarding their mental health.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted mental health into the limelight. People have never discussed anxiety and depression as much as they did since 2020 when many were trapped at home or lost their jobs. With work turning remote, boundaries between personal and professional life are blurred, causing more agony. According to a study undertaken by the American Psychological Association (APA), two-thirds of workers experienced mental health challenges that affected their job performance, and 40% experienced burnout during the pandemic.
So, if you, too, have been affected by mental weariness, anxiety, or depression, rest assured, as there are several ways to deal with your mental health issues at the workplace without hurting your dignity or your job. Opening up about your mental problems is crucial, and it can also be an empowering experience.
Understand the situation you’re in
Before you talk to your employer about your mental health issues, you need to understand where you are. Once you are clear about that, you move on to the next step. Some people say it’s best to let the boss know when you get a job offer, while others say you should say it when it interferes with your work. None of them are right or wrong, as it entirely depends on your specific conditions, symptoms, and, of course, the culture at your workplace.
For some people, discussing mental health is a sensitive issue, and they would not talk about it if their work isn’t affected. They are hesitant mainly because people generally don’t want to show their medical history to others. Conversely, it is difficult for some people to disclose their condition even when work gets affected. They are worried that they might have to explain their situation, which could go against them. They are afraid of the stigma. Whatever you decide to do, ensure you are in a comfortable place when it comes to disclosure.
Find the right time to talk to your employer
Once you have made up your mind to talk about it, you can approach your employer and speak to them about how your anxiety affects your work. If you feel the workplace environment is not very conducive, raise the matter with your employer.
If you think that talking to your employer may worsen matters, but you still want to talk about your mental health condition, you should approach the HR department. They are better trained to deal with complicated issues. Besides, it is essential to have psychological safety with whom you decide to talk. On the other hand, if your mental health is challenging to keep under control, it is suggested that you let your employers know about it during the hiring process itself. Being honest and putting it in context is challenging but essential.
You may approach your colleagues as well
If you are not sure about directly discussing your mental health issues with your employer or the HR department, you may also try talking to your colleagues. Even if you have shared your problem with your employer, you may let a few colleagues know about your situation. You should never forget that mental and physical health are equally important and never let the stigma get in the way. Letting your colleagues know about your mental problems will help them talk about them whenever they also experience similar issues. Some of them may also be your biggest support system at the workplace.
Tips for dealing with the situation better
Irrespective of whether you decide to discuss your mental health issue with your employer, HR department, or colleague, the given below will help you approach the situation better.
- Talk to your employer or colleague in person. These discussions are compassionate and, therefore, you should never text or email your employer or colleague.
- Select a time that’s convenient and best for you. You could call for a meeting when you are relatively calm and not let your emotions get the better of you.
- When you decide to talk about your mental health to your employer, develop a list of specific priorities, and plan what you can handle and where you need additional support.
- Remember, you should never overshare information about your medication or therapist. Keep the environment professional and the conversation short and straightforward.
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