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How to Talk About Mental Health with Your Employer

August 19, 2020

Disclosing our mental health to others can sometimes feel scary. When we’re not sure how those around us will react, we might be hesitant to open up.

While it may be uncomfortable at first, being open about our mental health can have its benefits. Talking openly allows others to better understand us and can enable them to provide us with much-needed support.

The same is true for talking about mental health at work. Many of us spend a lot of our time at our jobs. We find purpose and fulfillment when we enjoy what we do at work.

On the other hand, when we feel isolated or burned out at our job, our work performance can slip. In fact, it’s common for employees to leave jobs due to burn out and work dissatisfaction.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the reasons why employees may not disclose a mental illness, how employers can benefit from having a mental health-friendly workplace, and how to start the conversations.

Why Employees Don’t Talk About Mental Health

Mental health stigma can be a barrier for employees who wish to talk openly about their treatment and condition. There are several reasons an employee might not wish to disclose a mental illness, including:

  • Fear of losing their job or missing out on a promotion
  • Worry over coworkers and their managers judging them
  • Risk of being misunderstood
  • Not wanting to be seen as being given special treatment
  • Witnessing harassment or bullying of others who have talked about mental health

When employees don’t talk about mental health, it can have a ripple effect. They might avoid seeking treatment if they can’t take time off to go to therapy appointments. Employees who feel misunderstood can feel isolated and their relationships with their coworkers can suffer.

The Benefits of Talking About Mental Health in the Workplace

When employees feel empowered to talk about their health, including their mental health, they feel supported and understood. This can impact many facets of your company culture and work environment, including:

  • Improved job performance and productivity
  • Retaining good employees and attracting new ones
  • Reduced burnout and work-related stress
  • Increased social inclusion among all employees
  • Preventing sick days due to anxiety or depression

Additionally, if you are a manager or leader in your organization, your support and understanding can have a positive impact. More employees might be encouraged to seek treatment when they see their coworkers doing the same. As more employees care for their health and thrive in all areas of their life, the health of your organization improves as well.

How Employees Can Talk About Mental Illness in the Workplace

If you have thought about disclosing a mental health disorder to your employer, follow these steps to have a productive conversation.

  1. Let your employer know you have something important to talk to them about. Now they will feel more prepared to have a serious conversation.
  2. Give examples of how your mental illness impacts your work. For example, an anxiety disorder might make you feel overwhelmed when giving presentations.
  3. Provide suggestions on how you can be supported. Do you need time off for therapy or would you benefit from working in a team on difficult projects?
  4. Highlight positive things about your mental health condition. Maybe you have learned to communicate better because of therapy.
  5. Share resources where they can learn more about your condition. Websites like NAMI, Mental Health America, and our Mental Health Resources for Businesses are great places to start.

People with mental health conditions are just as valuable as their peers. As with all things, you only need to disclose what you feel comfortable talking about. Addressing mental health with your employer can have positive outcomes and can enable them to support you. In the long run, it can improve how you feel about work and empower you to seek help when needed.

If you are a business owner or manager, you can encourage your employees to improve their mental health. Creating a mentally healthy workplace will undoubtedly benefit both you and your staff.

The Check-In Project is a mental health initiative of Wraparound Osceola, working to break the stigma surrounding mental health. Our goal is to provide employers with the tools and resources needed to create a workplace environment which fosters the importance of mental health of all employees.

Email: info@thecheckinproject.ORG// Phone: 407-870-4897