How to Talk to Your Boss about Your Mental Health

Deciding whether to tell your employer about your mental health can be difficult. Here’s twenty (20) tips to guide you on advocating for yourself in the workplace.

1. Consult others (if you can)
In the case of bullying or harassment, try speaking to a member of HR. There are often procedures in place that will support you.

2. Think about what you need
Think about why you’re disclosing this information in the first place—what support do you need? Hold off on telling your boss until you are clear about what you’re hoping to gain by sharing this information.

3. Find the right time (and place)
We can’t know for certain what our mental health will be like in the future but, if you can, try to predict a suitable day/time to bring up the topic. Approaching your boss on a day when things are calm in the office is best.

4. When the time’s right, go for it
The relationship you have with your boss will determine the best way for you both to have the discussion. It might be easier for you to request a one-to-one by email, as this can allow you to book some private time away from your colleagues.

5. Take care of yourself
By having a conversation with your boss and keeping him/her in the loop about your mental health, you can start to make the changes that will benefit you.

6. Writing
Write out a list of reasonable adjustments that could help your wellbeing can bring clarity and structure to the dialogue.

7. Feel out the situation.
Especially if you’ve been working somewhere for a while, you can get a good sense of how understanding your boss will be. “

8. Approach it early
Don’t wait until an annual sit-down until you open up. In the workplace, too often, difficult conversations are only addressed as part of a formal review process. Ideally you would speak to your managers before you hit a level of anxiety or depression where you’re just not coping

9. Talk about it when you’re feeling well.
You want to address the issue when you’re relatively healthy and not when you’re having a problem. By speaking directly and providing a bit of education, you can walk away confident that you made the right choice in saying something.

10. Turn it into a teaching moment.
You might receive a response that’s less compassionate and understanding than you were hoping. Be ready to provide more information on what your diagnosis means, or what’s important to know about people who have it. Get scientific and give your boss the facts about burnout etc.

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11. Approach HR
If it’s hard to get a hold of your boss to have a personal chat about your mental health, then consider talking to someone from HR. Human Resources department’s sole purpose is to be there for the employee. They’re equipped with the right tools to handle a company’s employees.

12. Go into the conversation with an end goal
It’s important to have an end goal in mind when you talk to your boss about your mental health. If it’s about taking some time off to focus on your mental health, then remember to keep that in mind when you do open up about your struggles.

13. Don’t immediately assume that it will go badly
Jumping to the worst conclusion never did anyone good. It may be difficult to do, but if you feel like you can’t have a conversation about this, you can and should always write it down and let it be known.

14. Suggest an alternate
If you have a good rapport with your boss, you can ask them if working from home is an option. Or maybe some of your tasks could be reassigned to a colleague. If you can work, but just need a break from your work environment, it’s perfectly within your right to ask for it

15. Pass it on?
Let your employer know if you’re comfortable with your condition being shared with the wider team and if so, by whom. Employers have a legal obligation to respect your right to privacy.

16. Know your legal rights.
Know the law that protects employees with physical or mental impairments, it may offer you some protection at work.

17. Demonstrate your proactiveness.
Tell your boss your plan on reclaiming and enhancing your mental fitness—for instance, who you are hiring to help you and what you intend to do to address both the root and the symptoms.

18. Discuss accommodations with your employer.
You have the right to ask for accommodations at work if you are experiencing mental illness. According to the Human Rights Act, all employers must accommodate people living with a disability such as a mental illness. Give your employer concrete examples of ways to support you.

19. What if you don’t have a good relationship with your manager/boss?
Talk to a colleague, particularly someone senior who has a good relationship with your boss. “Speak to someone who you trust, who – ideally – has a good relationship with your manager,” he says. “They may have insights on how to best speak to your manager and can perhaps help facilitate the conversation.”

20. Ask your Doctor
We don’t often find the right words to talk to our bosses about our mental health. However, your doctor probably could. You can ask your therapist, counselor, or physician to write a note to your boss explaining your mental health and how they can assist you. It may sound like a childish practice, but sometimes, hearing it from a medical

References and Sources:
~ Cosmoplitan.co. (Andie Reeves)
~ Glamour.com (Caitlin Flynn)
~ nypost.com (Amy Molloy)
~ psycom.net (Becky Wright)
~ Sunlife.ca (Joy Blenman