Many people think that, particularly in a work environment, sharing how you’re experiencing mental health challenges is inappropriate and even a sign of weakness. But taking care of your mental well-being is just as important as caring for your physical health. In fact, pandemic-related events in 2020 and early 2021 have caused increases in mental illnesses that become more active and disruptive to daily life at work and at home.
The reality is that showing your vulnerabilities at work in order to improve your mental health makes you a stronger and more productive professional. Up to 80% of employees will experience a diagnosable mental health condition during their lifetime, but almost 60% of employees have never spoken to another person at work regarding their mental health. Yet many high performers have strengths that often result from dealing with these challenges.
While there’s no exact “best way” to bring up the subject with your manager or boss, there are reliable steps you can take to improve your chances of being heard with respectful empathy. Below are just a few suggestions for getting to that place if you’re considering disclosing a mental health challenge at work.
Consider Your Needs
Before you broach the subject at work, assess how you want to come off to others. You might ask a trusted family member, friend, or coworker if they noticed that you seemed different or “off today.” What may seem and feel noticeable to you may not be as strongly so to others. How you’re coming off to others has the potential to guide how much you share, if anything, or how you present the information. Not only that, this sort of reflection is also a great check on your own runaway thoughts about how it feels to experience mental health challenges. It’s crucial to remember that your experiences are very valid, but they may not seem like what they are to others at work who aren’t initially aware.
You might then consider what accommodations could help you stay productive and successful on the job. Maybe it would help to move to a quieter part of the office, or maybe it’s healthy for you to commit to a daily walking meditation to help center yourself. Perhaps most importantly, try to let go of any sense of shame in making these requests. It’s both normal and healthy!
Figure Out the Right Time and Place
It’s impossible to know for sure what your mental health status will be like in the future. However, if you can, try to predict a suitable day and time to bring up the topic with your manager or boss. For instance, approaching your boss on a day when things are calm is usually best.
Consider meeting at a location where you’ll be able to talk in a calm and collected way. If you can’t find a quiet space within your workplace, suggest going somewhere else with them, or even for a walk together. Walking can take the corporate feeling out of the meeting and being outside might bring a new perspective to how you’re feeling.
Initiate the Conversation
Once you’re prepared to share your experience, schedule a time to talk one-on-one in private. Allot for more time than you think is necessary so the conversation isn’t cut short. Be clear about how your mental health challenges are impacting you at work. If the cause is work-related, be sure to share that also so everyone’s on the same page.
As much as you can, think of concrete suggestions for how your manager or HR can help you. Consider ideas about what changes or resources you’d find helpful, and accept that these can range widely. You might say something like, “I’m doing okay now, but it’d be helpful to understand what resources are available if I ever need them,” and, “A conversation about working styles could help me better understand our work norms and relieve unwanted stress.” This simple habit of sharing what you and your team members need to accomplish the best work is often all that needs to be said. You should also feel able to suggest co-creating a solution with your manager and HR — you don’t have to be the one with all the answers!
Remember too that just as you hope that your boss or your employer’s HR team will have empathy for your situation, try to also have empathy for them. It’s likely that you’ve given your situation a lot of thought, but all of it may be news to them. Give them time to process and respond so they can circle back with next steps. It’s also a great idea to set a time to follow up so everyone knows what to expect.
It’s never easy to reveal that you’re experiencing mental health challenges, especially in a professional setting. But your mental health is important regardless of where you are, and that doesn’t change just because you’re employed.
But TMS Center of the Lehigh Valley is one of the first TMS centers in the area and one of the most experienced along the entire east coast. So if you want more information about how to communicate your or a loved one’s mental health needs at work, our expert and friendly TMS Center staff are dedicated to helping you. Our facility is one of the first TMS centers in the area and one of the most experienced along the entire east coast. Reach out to contact us today!