What to Know About Mental Health Disclosure in the Workplace

Mental health is an often overlooked issue in workplaces. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety account for nearly a $1 trillion loss in productivity worldwide each year.

It’s crucial for workers to understand their protections as an employee. Read on to learn how to best disclose to your employer about mental health conditions.

Mental Health And Its Crucial Impact In The Workplace

There is no overestimating the role mental health plays in shaping a workplace culture. Research shows that people with mental health problems struggle with productivity, engagement and work satisfaction. 

Talking about mental health can lead to support from coworkers and accommodations, leading to a more inclusive work culture. Speaking out helps to crack away at the stigma, increase awareness, and create an environment in which employees feel inspired to ask for help.

Understanding Legal Protections

Employees may wonder what rights they have when revealing their mental health issues.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is a civil rights law that protects people with disabilities, including mental health diagnoses. It requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to allow employees with disabilities to perform their jobs effectively. These include anxiety, major depression, bipolar disorder, and more, given they significantly impact the affected person’s daily living.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for specified family and medical reasons which may include an employee’s own serious mental health condition.

Employees can instead focus on their mental health without facing the same risks to job security. When it comes to the workplace, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandates that employers maintain a safe and healthy work environment — which includes addressing any stressors at work that could affect mental health. Employers need to actively address work-induced mental health disorders.

Risks of Disclosure

Even if language is well crafted, disclosing a mental health condition at work has its risks. This could slow down employees’ career progression and jeopardise relationships at work, due to the stigma or discrimination from those who do not understand the difficulties involved with mental health.

Privacy leaks can also be problematic, and are an understandable concern for employees, as unauthorized disclosures can lead to personal and professional fallout. In cases where such disclosure leads to unfair treatment or termination, consult a Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney who can provide legal assistance and support.

Best Practices for Disclosure

Disclosing your mental health condition at work is a deeply personal decision and should be considered carefully first. 

Evaluating the Decision

Weigh your personal needs against the workplace environment. Key considerations include company culture, the need for accommodations, and potential reactions from both supervisors and coworkers.

Timing and Context

Choose an appropriate time and place for disclosure. Ask for a meeting with your HR person or direct manager, saying that you have something you would like to discuss.

Need Articulation

Tell the employer your condition, how it affects you at work, and what kind of accommodations are required for you to be successful. Documenting the meeting and any agreements made can protect your rights and uphold accommodation standards.

Employer Duties

Employers play an important part in ensuring that workplaces react efficiently to employees disclosing mental health conditions. 

Creating a Culture of Support

Policies impact approaches to mental health and support. Workplace stigma can be reduced, and the overall climate of organizations improved through training management as well as all staff on mental health issues.

Confidential and Supportive Resources

Keep what is disclosed to yourself as you offer the help needed. This is necessary  because if employees do not feel safe coming forward, your workplace culture and productivity will plummet, or even become toxic.

Knowing the legal protections and associated risks of revealing one’s mental health conditions with employers is essential. Through enabling conversation and creating an environment that supports all employees, organizations can create more positive outcomes.

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