How Do You Tell Your Colleagues?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression, not a physical illness, is the leading cause of disability worldwide. And annually, a global cost of one trillion dollars can be attributed to depression and medical conditions linked to depression. This doesn’t even account for the dozens of other mental health diagnoses out there.

Clearly, mental health has an impact on the workplace. So, how can you start broaching the subject of mental health at the office? How do you talk to your colleagues or even your supervisors about something like your mental health diagnosis?

It can be hard to decide whether or not to disclose your mental health diagnosis at work. But, disclosing could lead to positive outcomes, like being moved from one project to another, or receiving accommodations that will help you work to your full potential.

If you do decide to talk about your mental health with someone at work, try these tips:

  1. Know that you don’t need to share every detail. You don’t even need to share your exact diagnosis with your boss or HR department. When talking with someone at work, only share what you’re comfortable sharing; you can be vague with the details. You are always entitled to your privacy.
  2. Consider when you’re sharing the information. Are things going well at work, or is your performance suffering? Determine when it makes sense for you to speak up – would having special accommodations, like telecommuting or flexible hours, make a difference in your performance? Remember that you get to control both the timing and the situation when you choose to share.
  3. Think about writing a script for yourself. You can highlight your particular strengths and achievements first in order to help frame the conversation in a positive light. Then, you can bring ideas to the table regarding what potential accommodations, such as telecommuting, written feedback, or a flexible schedule, would help you thrive.
  4. Find out if your company has any resources you can use. Many companies offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of a benefits package. EAPs may include counseling and coaching, which can be helpful when you’re struggling. And, EAPs are free and confidential, which means your boss or HR department doesn’t know if you’re accessing these services.

Have you talked to your colleagues or boss about your mental health diagnosis? What recommendations do you have for others?