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Should You Tell Your Boss About Your Mental Illness?

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While things have improved in recent years, there’s still a long route to the point where mental health issues don’t suffer from any stigma at all. Some less-educated people might still expect someone with a chronic anxiety condition to be a bag of nerves all the time; someone with depression to never smile; someone with PTSD to be unable to hear loud noises – and so on and so forth. Much of the time, these are harmless assumptions caused by never having encountered someone with those conditions – though the stigma that furthers them is still there beneath the surface.

Knowing this means that the idea of telling your boss about a mental health condition you suffer from is something you want to avoid at all costs. Maybe they “get it” and will know exactly how to handle it, or maybe they’ll react badly and start to see you as a less reliable employee. It’s eternally unfair that there isn’t any way to know which way it’s going to go before you do it.

For temporary jobs or those, you intend to move on from in a short while, then telling your boss about your mental health is not necessary unless you want to. The problem tends to come with the more long-term jobs, the ones you enter with the hopes of climbing up to higher positions in the company. Do you tell your boss in that circumstance?

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Yes. Here’s why.

Not Telling Them Can Cause Problems

If you neglect to tell your employer about your health history, the result may be problems in the future if you have an issue with your health. Say, for example, you have an anxiety disorder and go through a particularly bad phase. You need to be signed off work to get yourself to cope. What are you going to do when you have to give the reason to your employer? Lie about the reason? Lies have a nasty habit of being difficult to keep track of, and your doctor might not be willing to go along with it.

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You Might Need Help

Most of us spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our significant other, so they might be the first who can notice when we’re not coping with situations due to mental health problems. These people might be able to give you the heads-up even before you know something isn’t going well, so don’t hide from them. If your colleagues know then, just through simple office talk, your boss is also going to find out – so why not address it to them directly, to begin with?

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It Gives You A Chance To Bust Myths

Let’s say your boss does just find out rather than you taking the time to directly tell them. Immediately, you have lost an opportunity to explain the condition and how it impacts you. If you have post-traumatic issues, you lose the opportunity to explain that a tendency towards addictions with PTSD is normal and you’re well aware of how to manage your situation. If you have depression, you no longer have the chance to explain how it waxes and wanes and that you shouldn’t be treated like you’re made of glass. You might get to say these things later, but you’re always going to be catching up to the assumptions they might have already made in their mind. Take the Vanguard, and you can make sure you control the narrative from the outset.

You Wouldn’t Hide A Physical Condition

Someone with Celiac Disease or anemia would likely disclose this to their employer because that’s the kind of thing that the people you work with need to know. So why is it different for mental health?

Ah, because of the stigma – but the only way to break the stigma is for those with mental health conditions to stand up and be counted. There’s nothing wrong with you. Your brain chemistry is a little off, that’s all – it’s not something you chose, so it’s definitely not something you should be ashamed of.

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Bear in mind that mental health conditions are a disability, which means you cannot be discriminated against because of your health. You have the law of the land on your side, so don’t be afraid to use it if you have to. If you do talk to your boss and you subsequently have reason to believe they are treating you differently because of it, then you have a justifiable right to examine that at a tribunal.

Of course, it almost certainly won’t come to that – so give it a go and see what happens. You might just find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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