How to Talk About Your Mental Health with Your Employer
I hear from more than one client lately that they find it very difficult to talk about their mental health at work. I read the following:
Up to 80% of people will experience a diagnosable mental health condition over the course of their lifetime, whether they know it or not.
60% Of employees have never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health status.
Many high performers, including overachievers, have strengths that often result from these challenges. You are not as alone as you may think!
Mental health is a spectrum that we all go back and forth on, just like physical health. Most of us fluctuate between stress, burnout and diagnosable conditions like depression or anxiety depending on what’s happening in our lives. While it may feel harder to disclose bipolar disorder than burnout, everyone should be able to relate on some level.
Self-stigma tells us that we are weak and should be ashamed of our anxiety and depression. Societal stigma tells us that we will be judged and that professional repercussions will follow if we are disclosed. However, since people shared with others their condition, none of those "assumptions" have happened. 4 Tips how to talk to your employer:
Consider what you’re experiencing and what the impact is — on your work performance, demeanor, and other factors. What is the duration of the impact? Is it a short blip that will go away in a few days, a longer but episodic challenge, or a chronic condition? Think through what caused your symptoms if they aren’t always present. Was it work related, something in your personal life, or a macro stressor?
Deciding: Consider the context and resources
What is the right moment, who is the right person and what do I want to achieve?
Preparing: Explore your comfort level
How much do you actually need to share to achieve your goal?
Sharing: Start the conversation
Budget more time than you think you’ll need so that the conversation isn’t cut short. Be clear about the impact your mental health challenges are having at work. If the cause is work-related, share that also. Just as you hope that your manager or HR will have empathy for you, try to also have empathy for them. As much as possible, come with suggestions for how your manager or HR can help you. Just as you hope that your manager or HR will have empathy for you, try to also have empathy for them. Give them grace and allow them to take some time to circle back with next steps. Be sure to set a time to follow up.
Kelly Greenwood HBR