How To Talk About Mental Health In The Workplace

October 14, 2020 Catherine Tacopina

Opening up about your mental health in the workplace can be a terrifying idea. While employers are leading more conversations about mental health, choosing to disclose a diagnosis, discuss your mental well-being, or even ask for support takes a lot of bravery and consideration. 

If you are struggling with this decision, it’s important to remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Similar to experiencing physical fatigue, there will be many times where you find that your mental health isn’t where it should be. This can become especially apparent, as internal pressures to be productive both at work and at home, and external stressors such as current events, take a heavy toll. These feelings of stress and anxiety can bleed into your professional life in the form of absenteeism and low morale. Since this can begin to impact your ability to function at work, you might reach a point where you want to address your mental health with your employer. Read also: How To Avoid Burnout While Working From Home.

While this is an extremely personal conversation, it may equip you with better resources to manage your own wellness—especially given how much time we spend at work. Here are five ways to address your mental health in the workplace: 

Identify the right person to person to talk to

In an ideal situation, most people would go to their supervisor first. This, unfortunately, isn’t always the most feasible option for a variety of reasons, ranging from comfort-level to corporate structure. If you do not feel you can start with your supervisor, either ask someone at the company you trust for guidance or approach HR to discuss your options. From there, they can help you make a decision and facilitate conversations about the next best steps.

Be prepared to discuss your needs

When you’re ready to talk about your mental health in the workplace, you want to be sure you go into this discussion by being prepared. Ask yourself: what do I want to disclose? What support or accommodations will help me? This will help keep the conversation on track and give you the confidence you need to be your best advocate.   

Maintain your privacy

Your health is personal, and there are certainly things that you might not feel comfortable sharing with your employer. While you may feel like you need to be completely open about your situation, know that you are allowed to keep certain matters private if you want to. Of course you want to be transparent, but it is important to maintain professionalism and set boundaries when addressing your mental health in the workplace. 

Be willing to discuss solutions and strategies

A good employer will be invested in your well-being, so they will likely want to discuss solutions and strategies that will help you maintain your mental health. Perhaps, you need more flexibility to work from home or adjusted hours to manage more personal matters. Whatever the case, be an advocate for yourself by explaining and exploring solutions that could help you. 

They might not be able to provide you with every single type of accommodation, but a good employer will most certainly want to work with you to help in any way they can. As you talk about your mental health with your employer, be open to their suggestions for managing mental health in the workplace. They may also be able to connect you with resources you wouldn’t have previously thought of! Read also: Can’t Take A Mental Health Day? 7 Ways You Can Still Recharge.

Communicate regularly

Once you talk to your manager about your mental health concerns, they’ll likely want to follow up with you to see how things are going. This is a perfect opportunity for you to tell them what is helping you maintain your mental health and what may not be having much of an impact.

More importantly, be honest with both yourself and your boss. If you need to take a vacation day to recharge and re-set, tell them. If you are struggling, don’t pretend that everything is okay. When addressing your mental health in the workplace, it’s important not to minimize your feelings. If your supervisor is going to support you in the best way possible, they need to understand how you are feeling. 

If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help. Here are some resources for help.

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