The demands of work can sometimes place us at odds with what we need for our personal health. As awareness and recognition of mental health continue to increase, it is important to know how to communicate your mental health needs in the workplace.
Bringing your personal issues into the workplace can be tricky, whether they are related to physical health, family needs, or mental health. While some office cultures openly promote work-life balance, others take an explicit “work first” approach that can make it difficult to have these conversations.
More workplaces are recognising the need to actively promote mental health, and there is growing acceptance of this as an essential reason for time off work or a restructuring of your schedule. If you are living with a mental health issue, or going through a challenging period of life, being able to take time to relax and recharge is critical to your overall wellbeing, not to mention your productivity in the workplace. Considering how and when to raise this with your boss is a good first step towards protecting your mental health.
Is This the Right Time to Talk?
The first thing to remember when you are considering talking about your mental health is that you don’t have to disclose anything until you are ready to do so. If you feel like you are managing well with your current workload and schedule, then you don’t necessarily have to talk about your mental health unless you want to.
However, if you are feeling overwhelmed at work and are concerned that it could affect your performance, or that by keeping up your expected pace it could create negative mental health outcomes, this is probably the right time to have a conversation about your health needs.
Key Questions to Factor into Your Decision
In order to help you assess if this is the appropriate time to start talking about your mental health, you may want to ask yourself a few questions like:
- Is your mental health impacting your ability to be safe at work?
- Is your mental health negatively affecting your workplace achievements or long-term goals?
- Do you feel like you are hiding your mental health condition? If so, does this feeling create additional stress?
- Is your workplace culture receptive and open about issues of mental health?
- Do you think your boss will be supportive of your needs?
- Are there ways that you could adjust your schedule or workload without having to discuss your mental health?
- Do you have strong support networks outside of work that can help give advice or validate your decision?
- Is there anyone else in your workplace that has raised their mental health issues? If so, could you ask them for advice?
Working through a few of these questions mentally will help give you a better sense of an effective strategy based on the culture of your workplace and your immediate needs. If you decided that this conversation is needed, being well prepared and aware of what you are comfortable discussing will help make it as productive as possible.
Who to Talk to First: Your Boss or Human Resources?
If you and your boss have a good rapport and a strong working relationship, then it makes sense to approach them first regarding your mental health. Having a discussion about what your needs are and how this can help improve your work in the long-term can give your boss a sense of how to structure your work in a way that will ultimately positively impact both your overall health and your productivity. Sitting down with your boss may also give you a sense of relief if you’ve been feeling like you have been hiding something.
However, if you don’t have a close working relationship with your boss, or you feel that the conversation could result in further stress or problems at work, another option is to discuss your issues with the human resources department. This team is familiar with the legal requirements of workplaces in respecting their employees’ health needs, and will know what accommodations your office should provide.
How Much Do You Need to Disclose?
In this conversation, you are totally in control about what you want to say regarding your mental health. Whether you choose to explain in detail what you are living with, or to keep most of it to yourself, focus on being clear about what your needs are. Before you talk with your workplace, jot down some notes on what you’d like to communicate about your mental health, and what changes you require based on that.
Be careful about using euphemisms like “stress” to talk about your mental health. If you are too vague, you risk downplaying what you are struggling with and not conveying a sense of urgency to your situation.
You are Not Alone – and You May Be an Inspiration
In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that one in four adults experience some type of mental health condition, and around 18% live with chronic anxiety. Chances are, some of your co-workers (and possibly your boss) are also grappling with mental health issues of their own, but may be unsure of how to bring it up at work.
Research has found that living authentically at work correlates with job satisfaction, job performance, and work engagement. Being true to yourself and your health needs not only makes you better at your work, but improves your ability to manage your condition and increases your overall quality of life. Sharing this experience may encourage others to come forward as well, and promote a work environment that recognises and respects mental health needs to everyone’s benefit.
When You’re Really Struggling
There are times when what you are dealing with can seem insurmountable, and it can be difficult to organise your thoughts. In these cases, it may be helpful to first speak with a mental health professional. Talking with a specialist can help alleviate some of your initial stress and provide additional guidance on how to discuss your needs at work.
A mental health professional can provide you with a diagnosis of your mental health condition and give insights into what lifestyle changes may help improve it. They can also help you develop coping skills to manage your condition and complement any adjustments you’d be making in the workplace.
How The Dawn Can Help
At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand we offer highly personalised, compassionate mental health treatment so that you can live to your fullest potential. Our programme focuses on helping you to feel better almost immediately, understanding the causes and triggers for your condition, and providing you with the tools you need to effectively cope with stressors and manage your mental health.
Our areas of specialty include:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Personality Disorders
- Bipolar Disorders
- Drug-induced Psychosis
- Professional Burnout
Licensed by the Thai Ministry of Health and staffed by an experienced, welcoming group of professionals, your treatment plan will be customised to fit your specific needs and maximise the time you spend at The Dawn.
Mental Health Retreat in Thailand and Online Therapy
Stress, worry and lack of downtime are known triggers of most mental health conditions. Located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, The Dawn’s tranquil riverfront location immediately transports you into an oasis of calm and comfort where you can focus solely on your needs. For those unable to travel at this time, we also offer an online programme designed to provide effective treatment in the safety of your own home.
Make your mental health a priority and call us today to learn more about how we can help you ease into a happier, healthier life.