Every year, over 40 million American adults experience a mental health condition. That’s 1 in 5 of the total adult population or almost 20% of the workforce in the U.S.
Yet, a study last year found that as many as 85% of people still think there is a stigma attached to bringing up their mental health at work. 58% said they wouldn’t be comfortable telling their manager if they were diagnosed with a mental health issue.
Here’s how to break the stigma and the news.
1. Find the Right Place and Time
While we can’t predict what our mental health will be in the future, if you’re in the thick of a depressive episode or anxiety attack, it might be best to hit pause on a mental health conversation. Regain your energy and clarity to approach the discussion with a clearer head.
Likewise, try to approach your boss on a day when things are calm in the office. Try to meet in a place where you’ll be able to talk openly. If there isn’t a quiet space within your workplace, suggest going for a walk.
2. Consider a Mediator
If you have a strong relationship with your boss and trust him or her, sharing details of your situation will likely be a lot easier than if you have a more formal workplace culture. In case you think you can’t talk to your boss, either because you’re uncomfortable or because you think they won’t understand, you may want to seek help from a mediator.
Consider paying a visit to your HR department first. These individuals are trained to assist in complicated areas.
3. It’s Up to You How Much You Want to Disclose
Regardless of how open you may be with your boss, you only need to reveal whatever you’re comfortable with. You are not required to go into a lengthy explanation of your medical history, nor do you need to give a run-down of your current prognosis.
It’s also appropriate to reveal you have a medical condition or mental health issue without disclosing your diagnosis by name. Remember, only you are in control of how much you share.
4. Be Open to Collaboration
Employees have a right to “reasonable accommodations,” but realistically, it’s up to employers to determine what “reasonable” means. So, it helps to present your boss with tentative solutions, not just a problem.
Of course, no one is expecting you to be an expert. It’s okay if you’re unsure about what type of help you need. But, try to provide a list of requested accommodations and explain how each will allow you to perform to the best of your ability. Your boss may not immediately agree to all of your requests, but being open to collaboration means you can find creative solutions that will work for both you and your employer.
Remember, admitting you’re struggling is far from a sign of weakness – it’s one of the greatest forms of strength you can display.