The caveat to this of course is that you don’t need to talk about it. It is not something that necessarily must be disclosed to your employer or colleagues. The important step before deciding to tell is determining what will be achieved if you do tell.
For instance, if you are on anti-depressants and they impact your sleeping pattern and make it hard for you to be at work on time, then it may need to disclosed. Or if your company has a health policy that enables you to benefits and treatment which cover mental health then you may need to disclose the condition.
Remember there are inherent risks to disclosing your personal mental health details as well. Your workplace may be committed to helping you deal with your mental health condition, and your employer could be compassionate and understanding. But, know that once you have disclosed it, even if you request for privacy, other people in the office may guess what you are dealing with or the news may trickle out. Not everybody will be as supportive, and some people may pull away once they know you deal with depression, anxiety or any mental health disorder.
Legally however, you must know your rights and the boundaries – and establish that your company has a nondiscriminatory policy on mental health before you disclose any information.
Only if you are okay with all these circumstances should you take the next step. Once you have decided to tell, determining how to break it to your employer can be tricky as well. It is a question of what and when to share, how much to reveal and whom to share it with.
The best course of action is to decide and share your condition at the onset rather than after a negative work review so that it doesn’t seem like you are using this as some kind of excuse. Secondly ask for private time with your supervisor. Most employees would prefer a one on one conversation in a private location but remember that you could also request the presence of the company counselor or HR team lead if you think that will ensure the conversation is smooth.
Lay down your condition in medical terms and then explain what it means for you in a day to day scenario, especially where it pertains to your work. Ensure you also explain what kind of help you are seeking from your boss or your work environment. It is best to be crystal clear about this and ask for help rather than leave things to be deciphered and figured out. Remember you know best how to deal with your condition and what you are requesting is help to be better at work despite your issues. So don’t allow yourself to be overruled in terms of the kind of help you are offered.
Finally, you are within your rights to request that this conversation remain private. If you choose to, you can disclose it to your teammates if you think you need their help. Perhaps they need to be alert around you when you are depressed or suffering from a panic attack so that they can get you to medical supervision earlier.
These are some of the ways you can have this difficult conversation with your employer about your mental health condition. Remember, you deserve to be treated fairly despite any condition – and you should be able to revisit this conversation should you feel any change in this.