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How Employees Can Talk About Mental Illness in the Workplace

Date: 10/01/21

Employees who are experiencing depression, anxiety disorders, grief, or excess stress are typically unable to give their best effort at work. If left untreated, these mental health problems can negatively affect your mental health and physical health. Researchers have identified a strong two-way association between depression and both heart disease and diabetes. Pay attention to your mental health in the workplace. You may notice you are having a challenging time with some of the areas below:  



  • engagement with work 
  • ability to focus 
  • communication with coworkers 
  • energy level and motivation 
  • physical capabilities 
  • attendance

If you're thinking about disclosing a mental health disorder to your employer, try these tips to help drive a more productive conversation:

  1. Give your employer the heads up. Let them know you have something important to talk about to make sure they are prepared to have a serious conversation. Try to set a specific time/date and a safe space to ensure no distractions. 
  2. Talk about it. Explain how your mental illness impacts your work, and pinpoint any specifics. For example, an anxiety disorder might make you feel overwhelmed when public speaking or giving presentations.
  3. Provide suggestions. Give your employers ideas on how they can support you. Do you need time off? Do you need specific accommodations? Do you need certain accommodations to attend therapy? Would you benefit from working on projects alone or perhaps on challenging projects you work best with a team? 
  4. Highlight the positive things! Explain how all your work to treat your mental condition has made you a better you. For example, perhaps you have learned to communicate better because of therapy.
  5. Share resources. Provide information and resources where your managers can learn more about your condition. Websites like NAMIMental Health America, or materials received by your Employee Assistance Program is a great place to start. 

If your employer needs feedback on how to help address mental health to the organization, share some ideas!

  • Communicate to build awareness of available mental health supports, especially the EAP.
  • Make mental health assessment tools readily available to all employees.
  • Train managers to recognize the signs of mental health problems and direct employees to available supports.
  • Offer training in stress management
  • Examine work practices that may contribute to employee stress and other mental health problems.

Addressing mental health with your employer can have positive outcomes and can enable them to support you. In the long run, it can improve how you feel about work and empower you to seek help when needed.

Sources: WPO

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Please always follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Programs and services are subject to change. Managed Health Network, LLC (MHN) is a subsidiary of Health Net, LLC. The MHN companies include Managed Health Network and MHN Services, LLC. Health Net and Managed Health Network are registered service marks of Health Net, LLC or its affiliates. All rights reserved.