Accepting that you may have a mental health disorder and seeking medical help for it are huge first steps, indeed. But there’s a third critical step too — one that will need preparation from your end. Once you accept your diagnosis, you’ll know that you have to share it with your employers.
Dealing with the stigma
Disclosure can be risky, especially with a subject that has been so stigmatised and poorly understood. Nobody wants to feel “defective”, nor do we want to give others a reason to doubt or marginalise us.
But when we stay silent about our struggles, we create the impression for ourselves and others that everything is fine when it’s not. And we end up in a situation where, in a crowd of 70 people, 10 of them feel they’re the only one in the room who are struggling. But that’s not the reality.
If you’re struggling with mental health, you need to know you are not alone. You are part of a silent mass of people whose voices deserve to be heard.
Part of opening up that conversation means summoning the courage to tell the people in our lives what’s going on. And that includes our bosses.
So, how do you summon the courage to disclose your mental health disorder?
Here are 3 steps to summon the courage to disclose your mental health challenges:
1. Accept your condition
- The first and most crucial step in this process is to accept your diagnosis.
- This is easier said than done.
- But unless and until you accept your reality, you’ll continue to feel the pressure to hide.
- One of the things that can help you accept your diagnosis is the knowledge that you are not alone.
2. Work to address your issue
- Very little can be done to prevent mental illness.
- One of the main contributors is genetics — a factor that’s about as mutable as our shoe size.
- But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to treat the underlying disorder with medication and mitigate environmental triggers like stress.
- Work with your doctors to determine how best to address your issue.
- Your treatment will give you power over a situation that would otherwise leave you feeling powerless.
- That sense of ownership is crucial for you tell your boss what’s going on, how it impacts your work and what they can do to help you perform at your highest level.
3. Speak the truth
- Once you’ve accepted your diagnosis and learned to address it constructively, it’s time to share.
- Remember: Many people struggle with mental illness.
- So, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the amount of empathy and understanding you’ll encounter.
Here are 3 essential elements to include in your conversation:
1. Personal Impact
- Explain how your diagnosis has impacted your life.
- It could be that your manic episodes allow you to work multiple jobs for several days straight with little to no sleep.
- That can contribute to your professional success, but it can also take a tremendous physical toll.
2. Professional Accommodation
- If you’ve been diagnosed, you likely qualify for an accommodation, which could allow you to work remotely, adjust your schedule or take unpaid breaks to speak to your therapist.
- You may also qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
- Spending time with loved ones can be crucial in identifying and/or preventing episodes.
- Be sure to let your employer know what works best for you and how they can help.
3. Cultural Wellness
- There’s nothing more detrimental to our mental health than toxic company culture. If you find yourself in such an environment, make your concerns known.
- If you’re not comfortable doing that with your boss, go to human resources or another member of management.
- If nothing changes, move on to another company that will value you and your mental health.
- Sticking it out in a toxic workplace will only exacerbate your condition and encourage troublesome co-workers to continue with impunity.
Our society is waking up to the issue of mental health, but the stigma continues to linger. That’s what makes the idea of disclosure so frightening. But you are not alone. Countless individuals have walked a mile in your shoes. They have not just survived their disorder; they’ve thrived despite it.
Your boss has a vested interest in seeing you perform at your highest level. Help them see that accepting and accommodating your condition isn’t just the right thing to do for a fellow human being, it’s also the wisest business decision.