Stress Management Job Stress How to Talk About Your Mental Health Challenges at Work By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 23, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Laura Porter Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Should You Tell Your Employer? Talking About Your Mental Health Do's and Don'ts If you're struggling with managing your mental health, you know it can become more difficult to keep up with work duties, among any other responsibilities on your plate. While these aren't always easy conversations to have, it may be helpful to talk to your employer about your struggles so that you can partner with your boss, co-workers, direct reports, or human resources department to find solutions that help you feel better and take greater control of your mental health. On May 19, 2022, Verywell Mind hosted a virtual Mental Health in the Workplace webinar, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW. If you missed it, check out this recap to learn ways to foster supportive work environments and helpful strategies to improve your well-being on the job. Best Insurance Companies For Mental Health Should You Tell Your Employer? There can be a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic concerns to consider if you are contemplating talking to your employer about your mental health challenges. A 2018 journal article provides a systematic review of the literature to help you understand why you may need to navigate these discussions differently depending on circumstances. Factors that impact the decision to disclose or conceal mental health challenges may include: Potential stigmaPersonal characteristics of a bossRelationship with employerMental health of the employeePerceptions of mental illnessFears about losing control When struggling with mental health, it can even be difficult to think clearly, so it helps to really spend time considering a proper course of action. A 2015 study looked into how people manage their mental health information at work. This research found that men, people participating in supported employment programs, recipients of disability benefits, people with a thorough knowledge of applicable legislation, those with fewer negative experiences regarding stigma, and people who report more severe illness were increasingly likely to disclose mental health challenges at their workplace. Should You Tell Your Boss If You Have a Mental Health Condition? Talking About Your Mental Health at Work Talking to people at your workplace about mental health challenges can feel particularly overwhelming, but it can also be beneficial in the long run. There are productive approaches you can take to be more open with your employer about the mental health challenges you are working through. A 2017 journal article based on a qualitative research study found that people with mental health concerns had to navigate the stigma of mental illness while managing their symptoms to maintain their work performance. Given these challenges, it can be helpful to think critically about how to effectively approach discussions of your mental health in the workplace. "For people who have made the decision to speak openly at work about mental health, planning is key." says psychotherapist Haley Neidich, LCSW. "It's important to know and rehearse not only exactly what you're comfortable disclosing, but to talk through with a trusted friend or family member what the various responses might be and how you'd like to address those." Neidich says that the best approach can often be a direct one, wherein you are not overly emotional and share only relevant information. It may help to tailor your discussion to your audience. Talking With Your Boss It can feel intimidating to talk to your boss regarding challenges with mental health, especially when so many people rely on their jobs for an income to survive. This insight aligns well with the evidence from a 2020 journal article based on focus groups with people with mental health concerns human resources practitioners, employers, accommodations professionals, and advocates. This research found that people benefitted from considering who they should share their mental health challenges with, as well as the content, timing, and communication style used in their disclosure. While it may not be something you usually bring up in an interview for a new role, Neidich recommends that being clear about the type of support you need to do your best job can demonstrate commitment once settled into the role. Speaking With Your Direct Reports When speaking with the employees you supervise directly, it can be useful to think about exactly what they need to know to complete their responsibilities and how your mental health may impact them. "Maintain professionalism by being brief, to the point, and clear about exactly what your request or concern is," Neidich says. There's no need to amplify your experience or be overly emotional in order to get others to understand. If anything, being open with those that report to you may just encourage more dialogue about your team's mental health and foster a healthier working relationship. Navigating Discussions With Your Co-Workers While colleagues may not need to know about your mental health challenges to do their jobs well, sharing concerns may yield much-needed support. "I think that more people should be speaking openly in the workplace about their mental health issues, but there's not any guidance on specifically how to do this," Neidich says. Due to this lack of guidance, it's normal to feel nervous when thinking about talking about your struggles at work. Do's and Don'ts It may help to keep these actionable recommendations in mind when navigating discussions about your mental health challenges in the workplace. Do Be direct and rehearse what you're going to say ahead of time.Be clear with your boss by asking if they feel that anyone else needs to know. For example, some may only request that human resources is also made aware to provide any additional necessary support. Have a clear list of the accommodations that you need in order to manage both work responsibilities and your personal life. Neidich recommends verbalizing your motivation and dedication to your job. "Make it clear to your boss that you take your job seriously and enlist their help in problem-solving how to get you back to a place where you're feeling comfortable and confident with your responsibilities," she says. Don't Share any information that your workplace does not need to know.Complain about work. Demonstrate that you are committed to your job and that being distracted due to your mental health has been challenging and you want to address any issues and make a plan. Assume you know how your boss is going to react. Sometimes people can surprise you when you get vulnerable about what you need. A Word From Verywell There are valid reasons for hesitating to talk about mental health in the workplace. Should you feel comfortable making this disclosure, planning ahead may be beneficial, as may getting support from friends, family members, or co-workers that you trust. Regardless of what you decide is the best option for your needs at this time, it can help to develop a plan for how to manage your mental health challenges in the workplace. While certain decisions may make sense in one setting at one time, you may want to reassess your needs in the future. It can also be helpful to be sure you're caring for your mental health outside of work hours, by creating boundaries between work and your personal life, prioritizing self-care, and seeking professional help as needed. If you see a therapist, they may also be able to help you plan what to disclose at work and how. When and How to Take a Mental Health Day 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Grice T, Alcock K, Scior K. Factors associated with mental health disclosure outside of the workplace: A systematic literature review. Stigma Health. 2018;3(2):116-130. doi:10.1037/sah0000079 Hielscher E, Waghorn G. Managing disclosure of personal information: An opportunity to enhance supported employment. Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2015;38(4):306-313. doi:10.1037/prj0000127 Elraz H. Identity, mental health and work: How employees with mental health conditions recount stigma and the pejorative discourse of mental illness. Human Relations. 2017;71(5):722-741. doi:10.1177/0018726717716752 Brouwers E, Joosen M, van Zelst C, Van Weeghel J. To disclose or not to disclose: A multi-stakeholder focus group study on mental health issues in the work environment. J Occup Rehabil. 2019;30(1):84-92. doi:10.1007/s10926-019-09848-z By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Stress Management Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.