Few things have the potential to fill employees with fear quite as much as the prospect of telling their employer about a mental health condition. This is extraordinarily tragic and unfair, not least because it exposes a double standard born of ignorance regarding mental health which continues to this day. Whereas many of us would feel comfortable or even obligated to tell our bosses about certain medical conditions we have, most people with mental health issues are extremely reluctant to be as forthcoming. Given the lack of understanding, both intentional and otherwise, which continues regarding mental health, that unwillingness to come forward is as understandable as it is unfortunate.
This needs to change. We cannot continue to act as though mental health is a disease to be swept under the rug, used as a scapegoat, or imagined in the most stereotypical and offensive ways possible. We all know someone who suffers from mental health issues, and it is vital that we destigmatize mental health conditions accordingly.
To that end, here are a few tips to keep in mind when speaking to your employer about mental health.
First and foremost, you need to educate them. While it may be frustrating for you to have to continue to do this, education is the only thing which can dispel ignorance, and before you get rid of ignorance about your condition, you cannot have much done on your behalf.
Try to be as patient as possible, and come armed with information from several sources, along with that of any doctors you may be seeing, so as to back up your account to your employer.
Once they are won over, you’ll be able to ask for support. Politely ask for whatever accommodations you require. Once again, be patient, and try to explain to your boss why these accommodations are necessary. After you have done this, they can help educate the rest of the company on your behalf.
With patience, information, and insight, you can help change people’s minds about mental health at your workplace, and thus change the way they view and treat you for the better.