Removing the Stigma of Discussing Mental Health at Work
From one time episodes to continuous battles, a vast majority of people struggle with mental health issues or disorders throughout the course of their lives. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people experiencing anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness continues to rise. Although many people experience or understand struggles with mental health, they may not understand how or are too afraid to talk about their issues with other people, and this is especially true in the workplace. This article will discuss why and how employees should discuss mental health struggles with their employers.
Dr. Jordan Sudberg points out the fears many employees have about sharing their mental health with their employers commonly relate to the fear of getting terminated, losing consideration for a promotion, being bullied or judged by their coworkers and being misunderstood or viewed as receiving preferential treatment. While any of these may or may not be valid concerns, the added burden of an employee keeping his or her own mental health struggles from their employer often just compounds the problem. This is because keeping mental health private creates a greater distance socially from coworkers and often has a negative impact on overall job performance.
One of the primary reasons employees should talk about their mental health with employers is that doing so allows them to be more productive and proficient at their jobs. When employees receive full support and understanding from others inside the workplace, it helps them feel like valuable, contributing members of the team. This helps them develop a sense of comfort, purpose and belonging within their work environment.
Talking about mental health not only improves personal job performance, but it also helps increase the productivity of a team or business as a whole by strengthening social relationships among coworkers and creating open, honest lines of communication. Along with helping employees discuss their problems among one another, these lines of communication may provide the extra encouragement an employee may need to seek out professional help. Talking about mental health inside the workplace can also help struggling employees cut down on the number of days they call in sick due to mental issues or illness. When sick days are needed for mental health reasons or an employee needs certain days off of work in order to make appointments related to their mental health, discussing these issues with management and other coworkers ahead of time improves trust and helps them better understand the severity and needs of these issues.
Dr. Jordan Sudberg notes that when an employee discusses their mental health with their employer, they need to be as open and honest as possible, so they understand the condition to the best of their knowledge. During this conversation, the employee should discuss the mental health issues or disorders they regularly struggle with, how these issues may interfere with their job performance, what the employer can do to help and how or where the employer can learn more about these issues. The more an employer knows and understands, the better they can support the employee.