How to Talk About Mental Health with Your Employer

Mental health affects everyone at different times. We can all feel out of sorts for a few days or weeks, but sometimes our moods, thinking and behaviors change to make us feel miserable, interfering with our lives at home and at work

This blog gives practical advice to anyone who is considering disclosing a mental health problem to their employer.

Mental health in the workplace

A 2019 report by Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics – Mental Health at Work – shows the prevalence of mental health problems in US workplaces. It found that:

  • 60% reported symptoms of a mental health condition in the past year and symptoms were equally prevalent across all levels of seniority
  • 20% had willingly left a previous role for mental health reasons
  • 61% said their productivity was negatively affected by their mental health
  • 37% thought their work environment contributed to their symptoms
  • 60% had never talked to anyone at work about their mental health in the last year and employees were least comfortable talking to senior management and HR
  • People are twice as likely to give support for a colleague’s mental health than talk about their own challenges
  • 86% said it is important to them that a company’s culture supports mental health
  • Employees want the following resources to support their mental health at work: (1) mental health training (2) clearer information about resources (3) more open culture about mental health at work.

Benefits of talking about mental health at work

It is important to remember why being open and honest about mental health issues is the right approach. Organizations perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused. They will benefit from:

  • Improved job performance and productivity
  • Lower staff turnover
  • Reduced work-related stress and burnout
  • Better working relationships
  • Less sick days due to anxiety or depression.

How to talk to your employer about mental health

Talking about mental health at work can feel daunting but it is beneficial in the long run. Left untreated, mental health issues can become a vicious circle: the less that mental health problems are discussed in the workplace, the more the stigma and damage grows. To break this cycle, it is important for there to be an open culture so that employees and organizations can thrive.

If you are considering disclosing a mental health problem at work and would like some practical advice, follow these steps to find out how to talk about mental health with your employer:

Decide when is the right time to bring it up

If your mental health condition is negatively affecting your attendance, job performance or relationships at work, it is time to have a conversation with your employer. Being proactive is a sign of strength, not weakness, and many employers will appreciate this and want to help.

Choose who to talk to in your organization

Think about whether your line manager is a supportive person for you to confide in or would you prefer to talk to someone else in the organization.

Find out what you are legally entitled to as an employee

US organizations with 15 or more employees are required by law to provide reasonable adjustments. This information will be useful if your employer is not up to date with the latest legislation.

Consider what you want to achieve from the conversation

Think about the resources, support or adjustments that would be helpful to you before the meeting. Do you need time off for therapy? Would you benefit from having a mentor for difficult projects? Would flexible working or part-time hours help?

Let your employer know you have something important to talk about

If the person you are talking to is pre-warned, they can allocate sufficient time for the meeting so it is not rushed and they will be more prepared to have a serious conversation.

Explain how your mental health is affecting you at work

Rehearse what you are going to say ahead of the meeting and be clear about the impact your mental health challenges are having at work. If the cause is work-related, explain what triggers the problem. For example, an anxiety disorder might make you feel overwhelmed when giving presentations. Make it clear that you want to address your mental health issues and make a plan.

Provide suggestions on how you could be supported

During your conversation, emphasize your commitment to the job. Explain that adjustments for mental health in the workplace are generally simple, practical and cost-effective. Explore different options with your employer and try to be as creative as possible when thinking about how to address your issues.

Highlight the positive aspects of your mental health condition

Demonstrate how your mental health condition could benefit your organization. Perhaps you have learned to communicate better because of therapy. Also, when other employees see a co-worker speaking up, they might be encouraged to do the same.

Suggest resources where your employer can find out more about your condition.

Mental health websites such as National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America have a wide range of information and resources that your employer may find helpful.

Set a time to follow up

Agree to regularly monitor and review the support that is agreed with your employer and make changes if necessary.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

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Many employers recognize the benefits of supporting employees’ mental health and offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). At Kindbridge, we tailor our EAP programs and services to meet your organization’s needs.

When you choose Kindbridge, all this comes as standard:

  • Immediate access to highly-trained therapists
  • Four counselling sessions for common types of mental health issues – such as anxiety, stress and depression – as well as more specialist therapy, including digital addiction, gambling addiction and gaming disorder.
  • Confidential, online treatment that is accessible from anywhere
  • Follow-up support, as needed, to ensure appropriate and effective care
  • Therapy for eligible family members who are being negatively impacted by a loved one’s mental health problems.

Find out more about our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). We can get your employer signed up so that you can start benefitting straight away.