- How can I explain my mental health problem to co-workers?
- Tell your employer how you want to handle questions
- Scenario: What should you say?
- Talking about Mental Health in the Workplace – 5 Steps to Support a Co-Worker
- Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada
- 1. Learn about anxiety
- 2. Remember not to push
- 3. Involve your co-worker
- 4. Express empathy when you can
- 5. Encourage them to seek support from the workplace
- Why Employers Need To Talk About Mental Illness In The Workplace
- How to help a colleague struggling with their mental health
- What on earth can I say?
- Things to avoid
- Ways you can help
How can I explain my mental health problem to co-workers?
Your mental health problem is a medical problem, and you have the right to keep that information private.
You’re not required to tell anyone else about your condition except if your employer has an absenteeism policy that requires you to provide a medical certificate if you have been absent for a prolonged period of time.
You may also have to disclose your medical condition to your employer if you are claiming employee benefits and your company requires claims to be submitted to them directly.
You may choose to disclose the information to your employer if you need an accommodation.
Ordinarily, even if your employer asks you directly about having a mental health problem, you are not required to disclose it.
Tell your employer how you want to handle questions
Society still harbours stereotypes about people with mental illnesses, and those misconceptions and fears make their way into workplaces. Although the stigma around mental illness can take the form of well-meaning misunderstandings, it can result in discrimination and harassment. Everyone has the right to work free of discrimination and harassment.
If you do decide to disclose your condition to your employer, you should make sure that they will not disclose the information to anyone else, including co-workers. wise, you might decide to tell a trusted co-worker but ask them not to tell your employer.
In most cases, however, there is no law that prevents the employer or co-worker from disclosing the information to others in the workplace.
In any case, it’s important that you think about how you want to talk about your condition. There is a range of ways to describe a mental health problem. One organization has suggested some examples of language you may choose to use:1
- General terms: a disability, a medical condition, an illness
- Vague but more specific terms: a biochemical imbalance, a neurological problem, a brain disorder, a difficulty with stress
- Specifically referring to mental illness: a mental illness, a mental health problem, a mental disorder, a psychiatric disorder, a psychiatric disability
- Your diagnosis: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorder
If you have been open with your manager or supervisor about your diagnosis, but don’t wish your co-workers to know that you have, for example, panic disorder, make this clear.
If you know that your employer and co-workers are aware that you have a health problem, you may want to talk about it with them since keeping it secret may create unnecessary anxiety both in you and among your co-workers. This does not mean you have to tell them everything.
Your employer and co-workers will probably be uncertain about how to talk about your condition, so let them know how you prefer to discuss it.
Remember, you may choose to explain your situation at your own pace; you might first say you have “a problem with stress,” then call it “a psychiatric disorder” or even name the diagnosis itself if you feel it’s necessary or useful to do so.
Scenario: What should you say?
You travel into the next town every Tuesday and Friday afternoon to meet with your psychotherapist about yourbipolar disorder. You’ve agreed with your employer that you’ll work until 3 pm on those afternoons, and make up the time by taking short lunches and bringing work home.
When you are working this out with your employer you should try to come to an agreement about what other employees will be told. Even though you have no obligation to let others know why you are leaving, it will be obvious to everyone that you are suddenly getting different treatment.
This can sometimes lead to hostility or a suspicion of favouritism on the part of the other employees.
For example, two other employees approach you about “going home early;” they want to know why you’re getting “special treatment.”
- If you are not willing to acknowledge having any health problems you might say:
- [Your employer] and I have an agreement that lets me see to personal matters during office hours, but I make up the time.
- I have appointments during office hours each week that I can’t schedule for evenings or weekends, so [your employer] and I have set up a work schedule that lets me make up the time.
- If you are willing to discuss the fact that you have a health problem you might say:
- I have a medical condition, and I have to travel into the next town for treatment, but I make up the time at lunch and in the evening.
- If you are comfortable talking about your mental illness and think that it is appropriate you can say:
- I have a condition called bipolar disorder, and I get treatment during office hours, but I’ve organized my schedule so I make up the time.
Keep in mind that others in your workplace may be going for medical treatment without sharing the specifics. For example, a man who has testicular cancer may choose not to discuss the diagnosis, and may prefer just to let people know that he is getting treatment for a medical condition. You have the same option in how you talk about getting treatment for a mental health problem.
- “Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer.” Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University. Retrieved August 8, 2005, from www.bu.edu/cpr/jobschool/disclosing.htm.
- “Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer.” Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University. Retrieved August 8, 2005, from www.bu.edu/cpr/jobschool/disclosing.htm.
Talking about Mental Health in the Workplace – 5 Steps to Support a Co-Worker
A survey by Children’s Mental Health Ontario that was released late last year suggests that almost half of the province’s youth miss school due to issues related to anxiety, and one-quarter of parents surveyed have missed work to care for their child due to issues related to anxiety. This article had me thinking not only about how organizations are impacted by the mental health of their employees – but also, how the mental health of employee’s children can trickle into the workforce.
Another study conducted by The Conference Board of Canada, showed that lost productivity caused by workers’ depression and anxiety costs the Canadian economy almost $50 billion a year, both through lost absenteeism – calling in sick, and presenteeism – being at work and performing at reduced productivity. I’m curious to know what percentage of these stats include absenteeism of parents who have had to take time off work to take care of their child’s mental health – not to mention the presenteeism of these said parents when they are at work but thinking of matters at home.
Whether a parent must take a sick day to drive a child to a doctor’s appointment, or if they came to work after a rough morning, a child’s mental health can have an impact on everyone in the family – at home and in the workplace.
As much as we try not to bring our home life to work in the morning, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’ve had to lie to an employer about why I was late and why I had to fly the office at a moment’s notice.
And unfortunately, there has been more than one time that I can recall having a less than productive day because my mind was on what transpired that morning trying to get my daughter to school.
Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada
Mental disorders are the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada, surpassed only by injuries.
So, this begs the question, would you feel as comfortable telling your boss that your sick day was to care for your child’s mental health, as you would be telling your employer that you were home with a child who has the flu? This goes back to the debate over why mental health isn’t treated the same as physical health.
In my experience, I didn’t feel comfortable discussing my child’s mental health struggles at work – why? – well, I felt that my managers, as well as my co-workers, didn’t understand. So, when faced with juggling late mornings due to school refusal, and short days due to problems at school – I lied.
On days when my child refused to go into her class and I was delayed at school, I blamed it on traffic problems. I also made sure that I had a few phony excuses on hand in case I had to flee the office on a moment’s notice.
After a while, this has its toll on a person, which eventually lead me to leave a demanding job and enter the world of freelance work for a couple of years. I often wonder how many other parents are faced with a similar dilemma?
Now that I work in the mental health industry, I hear more stories from other parents who are going through – or have gone through similar situations. Each parent who I speak with says the same thing – that they feel alone and isolated as if they are the only one in his or her particular situation.
This was no different from me at the time. But now that I talk more about it, more and more people are coming the woodwork. When I started talking, it was amazing how many people knew of others going through similar situations.
I would be connected with a parent who went through a similar situation and who provided me with advice, and now I too am finding people searching for help, and I hope that I have been able to help them.
So why aren’t we talking about it? After years of anguish, I realize that once I started talking, people were there to help and that keeping it to myself really didn’t help me in the long-run.
As employers, employees, and co-workers we can do better. You can’t always change your employer’s level of empathy, or your organizational culture, but individually, we can do our best to help our fellow co-worker out. If you see a colleague struggling with his or mental health or has a child who is – here are five steps you can take to make your workplace more accommodating.
1. Learn about anxiety
Educate yourself about what anxiety is. You’ll be more ly to help and support someone if you understand more about what they are going through.
2. Remember not to push
Let your colleague know that you are there if they need someone to talk to, but don’t force them to open up if they aren’t ready. Ask them how you can help and respect whether he/she wishes to talk about it. Don’t make any judgements on what is going on.
3. Involve your co-worker
Encourage your co-worker to take a break and get out and go for a walk and continue to include them in workplace activities. Even if they don’t seem they are interested, you can still include them and leave it up to them if they wish to participate.
4. Express empathy when you can
Let your colleague know that you understand what they are going through. If they’ve been off work for a while, make them feel comfortable when they return.
5. Encourage them to seek support from the workplace
Is there an EAP program in place that can provide counselling for your co-worker? Or can they speak to their direct manager or HR manager?
If you or someone you know would to learn more about how to support a friend or family member, visit https://www.anxietycanada.com/adults/how-friends-and-family-can-help.
For more information on Anxiety Canada and its resources, visit www.anxietycanada.com. Also check out the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Works website at www.mentalhealthworks.
ca for ideas and strategies.
Why Employers Need To Talk About Mental Illness In The Workplace
1. What Happened When I Told My Boss I was Struggling with Mental Illness
2. What Happens When People Reveal Their Mental Illness to Their Boss
The workplace is the most important environment to discuss mental health and illness, yet it is the last place we expect to hear about it.
Employees are afraid of discussing it with co-workers and bosses. They don’t want to lose their jobs, damage relationships or risk future employers learning of illnesses and judging them. The stigma of mental illness keeps them silent.
Employers have the opportunity to change this climate of fear regarding mental health at the workplace. They rarely do, though. Roughly 85% of employee’s mental health conditions are undiagnosed or untreated.
There is plenty of motivation for them to step up. Mental health conditions cost employers more than $100 billion and 217 million lost workdays each year. By addressing mental health issues in the workplace and investing in mental health care for workers, employers can increase productivity and employee retention.
The issue goes beyond making the workplace better, though. Here are more reasons why investing in mental health treatment and discussing mental health in the workplace will benefit all of us (and in all parts of our lives):
Helping People Become Happier, Confident and More Productive
Let’s say there is an employee who has been diagnosed with panic disorder and suffers from panic attacks during work. He sometimes runs a meeting dripping with sweat.
In an environment where he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about his panic disorder, the situation could become much worse. He might not seek treatment, causing his performance to plummet. His supervisors might consider firing him.
In a workplace where he felt he could talk with his boss about the issue, the situation could turn around. The boss could recommend ways to cope with the panic disorder at the office. They could work together to create a plan that might allow the employee to improve his performance and become more valuable to the company. These results would improve his overall happiness and confidence.
Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness
Imagine a woman who deals with depression. In the late evening she video chats with a therapist who tells her the depression is nothing to be ashamed of. She is lucky enough to have family members and friends or a romantic partner who helps her fight that stigma. They accept her depression.
Then she goes to work in the morning. No one talks about mental illness. It’s as if it doesn’t exist.
On the rare occasions she does hear about it, the conversations are not positive. Her co-workers don’t have enough education to be sensitive. They accuse people of using mental illness as an excuse to be lazy or receive special treatment.
She wants to believe her therapist and loved ones when they say her mental illness isn’t a weakness. It’s hard to, however, when no one at work is coming forward. None of the people she spends the majority of her time with are telling her there is nothing wrong with her, that depression is OK.
When people want to view their mental health issues in a positive way, they need encouragement and acceptance in all parts of their life. Inconsistencies or an absence of positive rhetoric in one environment can make it harder to fight the stigma of mental illness.
Creating a Culture of Acceptance
Now envision the ideal scenario: employers disclose their mental health issues to employees, give presentations on mental health and encourage people to discuss mental health issues whenever they feel it.
Philanthropist Adam Shaw creates this environment in his workplace by being open about his obsessive compulsive disorder and discussing it with staff. He also co-wrote a book, “Pulling the trigger: OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression — The Definitive Survival and Recovery Approach.”
Shaw encourages employees to be open about their mental health issues or at least share “quirks” that make them unique. The goal is to make employers feel an obligation to address mental health and help people see mental illness as “a normal human condition.”
Practices Shaw’s create a culture of acceptance that benefits everyone, according to workplace mental health consultant Nancy Spangler.
Spangler facilitated presentations where employers talked about their experiences with mental illness.
“People weren’t aware their manager had struggled and gotten treatment,” Spangler said.
Two months after her clients began addressing mental health and illness in the workplace, they noticed an increase in the number of employees who sought treatment, including psychotherapy and medication. Reducing the stigma of therapy was an unexpected extra result of the atmosphere of being open about mental health.
Great Company Culture Attracts More Employees and Retains Current Ones
Some of the most talented and potentially valuable employees in the world have a mental illness. If employers want to hire them before other companies do, a reputation for accepting mental health conditions can be invaluable.
There are many people who would forego a salary increase to work for a company guaranteed to accept their mental illness. This can be an advantage when competing for talent against companies with larger budgets.
Current employees are also more ly to stay with a company that addresses their mental health needs and creates an environment where they can openly discuss mental illness and therapy. It’s a retention tactic more employers should try.
Less Stress and More Benefits to Bring Home
When people stress about their mental health problems at work, they bring that stress home. It then negatively impacts their life and relationships outside of work.
By creating an environment where people can openly discuss their mental health issues and treatment, we can reduce this stress. This will improve our lives outside of work and make friends and family grateful we are not unloading extra work stress on them.
Decreasing Social Isolation and Making People Feel More Included
Mental illness can make people feel isolated. They might not be seeing a therapist or know anyone who will understand or accept their illness. The loneliness can exacerbate illnesses such as depression.
Employers can prevent this isolation by encouraging employees with mental health issues to connect with other people who deal with similar issues. Creating an environment where people can discuss mental illness openly will negate this feeling of isolation.
“We all want to be part of a social group,” said psychologist Lauren Callaghan, who is also an author of “Pulling the trigger.” “Anything that threatens our social inclusion is a threat to our well-being.”
Social inclusion at the workplace makes people happier, and mental illness should not stand in the way of that.
It’s the Direction Our Society Needs to Move In
Only a few decades ago, it was rare for LGBT people to disclose their sexual orientation in the workplace. They worried it would get them fired or at least did not feel the work environment encouraged them to be open.
Now it is somewhat common for LGBT people to be out in the workplace. There is less fear of mentioning their lifestyle or opposite-sex partners.
Mental illness may be different than sexual orientation, but the idea of having the freedom to be open about all aspects of who you are — and to do so in all parts of your life — is the same. It’s time for everyone to have that freedom, and the path to it starts in the workplace.
Follow Joseph Rauch on : www..com/jrauch64
How to help a colleague struggling with their mental health
Content warning: this article discusses suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Have you ever been told something at work that has left you totally speechless? Incapable of finding the right words because the revelation is so completely outside your point of reference?
Tell someone you have seriously considered suicide and there’s a high probability that their reaction will be stunned, awkward silence. Because, really, what do you say?
In 2016, I hit rock bottom. At that time, I was spinning a lot of plates; working as an associate within Engine three days a week, supporting a start-up, delivering a nationwide marketing programme for O2 and responsible for the UK marketing plan for a US food-software company. To misquote The Beatles, I was working eight days a week.
Workplace wellbeing: how PR agencies are tackling mental health
It was completely unsustainable and my mental health couldn’t cope. It was time to accept that I had to seek help. I worried about the potential fallout – worries that further compounded how I was feeling.
What if my clients politely backed away and looked for someone who wasn’t a depressive? Even as little as three years ago, we didn’t talk about mental health as much as we do now. The stigma attached was frighteningly real and I was scared.
But I had to take a leap of faith.
I have been serious about suicide six times in my life. By this, I mean I had a plan. That’s the first thing you’re asked when you reach the lowest of the low: “Do you have a plan?” Luckily, I’ve always managed to talk myself round and give my sometimes fucked-up head the space it needs to choose another path.
But the truth is, on six occasions I’ve wanted to die more than I’ve wanted to live.
Suicide is the extreme of this condition and living with this feeling can turn every day into a living nightmare. Without the right support, you quickly understand why it’s sometimes referred to as the unspoken epidemic.
And guess what? Here’s the other thing. Depression is mostly really boring. No word of a lie. It’s repetitive and dull and the repetition is enough to drive you mad.
In recent years, a number of celebrities have opened up about their experiences and it can be hugely inspiring to see people at the top of their profession managing (on the surface) to live with their mental-health issue.
But these weren’t the people who inspired me most – although when The Rock spoke about his depression I admit my first thought wasn’t: “Good on you, highest paid actor in the world.” What I actually thought was: “Hurrah! The Rock and I have something in common.”
No, the people who gave me the courage to continue to speak out in my own circle were the people just me.
A college friend got in touch to say she’d read some of my posts and was convinced her friend had depression. I told her to pass on my number. Two-and-a-half years later, we still speak and we’re both in a much better place. Not without our dark days, but aware that there’s a safety net.
An ex-colleague messaged me to say she’d been suffering from an eating disorder and had decided to speak out.
A friend suffering with severe OCD connected because he felt many of our symptoms were similar. We now message frequently and I’ve become friends with him and his family.
A colleague who shared that they struggled with imposter syndrome. Another whose daughter had depression. A friend whose 12-year-old was displaying early symptoms. And the husband of one of my closest friends who hadn’t told his family he’d had depression for over a decade.
I was part of a club. Whether or not any of us wanted to join was irrelevant.
These days, I have a good handle on the things I need to do to manage my condition. Work makes me feel good about myself. At work I can achieve. I can socialise. I’m not mum, ex-wife, daughter, sister. I’m simply me. Doing the best I can in a company that supports me.
For Mental Health Awareness Week this year, I thought I would share how colleagues can help people me. To be clear, these are suggestions that work for me. After all, a mental-health disorder isn’t a single catchall.
What on earth can I say?
What if I make it worse? Unly. I’m not going to hold you responsible for my mental well-being – I have enough of my own guilt!
I’m embarrassed. I totally get that. Sometimes I’m embarrassed too. You don’t have to say anything.
I have stuff of my own going on. Your experience might be beneficial.
Is it contagious? Yes. Everyone I come into contact with is now depressed. Sorry, I should have told you that before but, hey, misery loves company! Talking to me might make you sad, but it won’t make you depressed. It might even make you reflect on the good things in your own life.
Things to avoid
Don’t tell me to get over it. The absence of the ability to get over it isdepression.
Don’t try to fix me by suggesting exercise, meditation, healthy eating. I don’t need this. Asking questions is far more helpful than giving answers.
Don’t overpromise. Don’t say “call me any time” if you don’t mean it. I have a friend on speed dial who keeps her phone with her 24/7 when I’m in a slump. She’s my person. If you can only spare 30 mins every other Wednesday, great. Clarity is appreciated.
Don’t judge me by what I have. “Why are you depressed? You have a great life, job… etc.” It’s really not about what I have. It’s about how I feel. If it wasn’t, only poor people with no support would get depression and I think they have enough to contend with.
Don’t give up on me. This can be a long game. For me, that would be a game of Monopoly – I hate it with a passion – with no end in sight. Give me time. I know which streets and houses I’m aiming for, but it takes time to get them. I really hate Monopoly.
Ways you can help
Be brave. Ask me how I am. If my black dog is with me, it might be an awkward conversation, but I appreciate the interest.
Be there. Send me a message. Invite me for a coffee. A walk. Whatever works for you.
Be empathetic, not sympathetic. No head tilts. No sad voice.
Make me smile. But, be warned, my sense of humour is dark.
Remember everyone is different. Only by talking to someone will you understand what works for that person.
At Engine, we’re on a journey of understanding. It’s not easy. It takes time, money and knowledge to implement a mental-health programme. But small steps are better than no steps.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, we are sharing a podcast I made with my colleague Grace Nuttall about managing a mental-health condition at work, are hosting mindfulness sessions, have created mental-health libraries in our offices and are making sure our people know where to go if they need help or have a mental-health emergency. It’s a really positive start and one that the company can be proud of.
So this is me. Emma Honeybone. Marketer. Mum. Friend. Terrible online dater. Colleague. Extrovert. Introvert. And regular oversharer. I also have depression.
If you have any questions or want to talk, feel free to get in touch @emmahoneybone.
Emma Honeybone is head of relationship marketing at Engine
People in the UK can contact the Samaritans for free, 24 hours a day, on 116 123 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to access confidential, non-judgmental, emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
People working in the advertising and media industries can contact the Nabs advice line on 0800 707 6607 between 9am and 5.30pm, or email email@example.com, for support on a range of issues. More information and other sources of support can be found here.
This article first appeared on PRWeek sister title Campaign