Smart Company today produced an article on the topic of disclosing mental health issues at work. Some of the key issues were as follows:
- Leaders need to build positive attitudes and support mechanisms for any staff impacted or likely to be by depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health problems. We need to remove the stigma and make all staff feel comfortable about who they are. It’s much better to work for a company that has employee well-being at the forefront of their concerns and a proactive approach. It is a duty of care.
- Depression and mental health problems are big work issues and we need to understand the impact on work and the associated stress triggers. How tragic that anyone would feel so bad they would want to end their life? And yet one in five people will suffer from depression at some stage in their lives, and this can lead to time off for varying amounts of time. We must have empathy for such a common situation.
- People who are working well and getting through each day may have compartmentalised whatever else they are experiencing in their lives for the sake of their regular employment and promotion chances. You would be wise not to presume, however, that such people always “have it together”.
Adding to these issues, consider the following from the Canadian Mental Health Association:
- The good news is that mental illnesses are treatable. Early recognition of mental health problems, referrals to the right resources (such as Employee and Family Assistance Plans), and adequate treatment can help people get on the path to recovery and go back to their usual work quickly. Employees can and do reach their full potential when they have the right supports in their life, including those at their workplace. Some mental health problems in the workplace can also be prevented when organizations take steps to create mentally healthy workplaces for all employees.
- Telling a supervisor or member of your workplace’s human resources team about a diagnosis of any health problem is called disclosure. In Canada, the law says that you don’t have to tell your employers what is causing a disability. You do need to say that you’re experiencing health challenges and you have to describe what you need to work well. Your employer may need information from your health care provider around your abilities and difficulties, but they don’t need your diagnosis.
- There are risks and benefits to disclosing your experience of a mental illness. If you do disclose, you and your supervisor may figure out strategies that help you stay at work. For example, you may change the way you complete tasks or change the tasks you do. These strategies are also called accommodations. By law, workplaces have to try to look at reasonable accommodations for anyone who experiences a disability, including a mental illness. Disclosing may help other people in your workplace understand any changes or difficulties that they’ve noticed.
- On the other hand, disclosing can lead to stigma or discrimination. Unfortunately, being open about a mental illness can impact a person’s position at a workplace or their ability to find a new job. There are laws to prevent this kind of discrimination, but it can still happen. Workplaces have different attitudes and cultures, so everyone will have different experiences. However, it’s best to think through all the options before you make a decision.
- Decisions around staying at work or taking time off are influenced by many different factors, including the nature and severity of the illness and how the illness affects your abilities to work. Ultimately, the choice should be between you, your care team, and your employer. Some people benefit from time off with a gradual return to work. Others may decide to work fewer hours. Some may stay at their current working hours. Staying connected to work can be helpful during recovery. It can be a place to contribute your skills, build social connections, contribute to something bigger, and earn a paycheque. A job can be part of how you see yourself. Talk with your care team for ideas and strategies that support your work goals.