The Canadian Mental Health Association reported that as many as 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue in any given year. Mental illness does not discriminate and could affect individuals of all ages, races, and religions. With the numbers being so high chances are all who read have been or will be directly affected by a mental illness in their lifetime whether it hits them or is a part of the life of a friend, loved one or co-worker. The topic of mental illness seems to be getting more mainstream. It seems more people are opening up about struggles and you can find more information about mental illness in the media. Never-the-less there sometimes still a stigma and some people may not know much about mental health or may feel uncomfortable talking about it or interacting with someone who may be suffering.
Some may think individuals with a diagnosis of mental illness cannot work at all. This is not the case at all. Many people push through bad days, manage symptoms with medications, self-care or therapy or some just suffer in silence. What happens when symptoms are hurting your performance at work? What happens if someone stops doing so well and just needs help? Can you just take a mental health day? Can you call in sick? Do you push through things for fear or reprimand or due to guilty feelings or feelings of failure? Sometimes we decide we should disclose or share information about our illness. How do we go about that?
I have always been pretty honest in admitting that I suffer from anxiety and sometimes bouts of depression. Sometimes I felt it held me back though and sometimes I worked through hard times to the point of falling apart. So how can you talk to your employer about mental health? Here are a few ideas:
- Discern what you want to disclose and how you want to disclose.
- Talk about how your illness may be impacting your work – and also include strengths and positive things about you and the job.
- Brainstorm some solutions that may help you feel better and perform better – Bring suggestions, ideas along
- Back up the need for time off or accommodations with Dr. notes
- Be prepared to also educate your co-workers and boss about what you may be feeling or of your needs.
- Ask about an Employee Assistant Program if you have one or what your medical benefits may be useful
- Try not to be afraid! It is ok to advocate for yourself and asking for help is brave!
I wish you all strength and courage and I hope you have kind and understanding employers. Good luck!