When living with a mental health condition, chances are, you will have to face the decision of whether or not to tell others at work. Typically, the reason for disclosure is to ask for accommodation for better performance. An accommodation is modifying a job, the job site, or the way things are done to enable a qualified individual with an equal employment opportunity.
Disclosure is a personal choice; however, here is some information that can provide some guidance in helping you make an informed decision.
Some Reasons to Disclose Having a Mental Health Condition on the Job:
•To obtain protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
•Required to request job accommodations
•To serve as a role model and educate others
•Relieves the stress some may feel about “hiding” a diagnosis
•Makes employers better able to respond to sudden symptoms or hospitalizations
•Disclosure to a supervisor is kept confidential by law
Some Reasons Not to Disclose Having a Mental Health Condition on the Job:
•There is no need for accommodations
•Hiring or promotion chances may be negatively affected due to stigma
•To protect your privacy
-Negative employer or coworker reactions to you or your work
-People not respecting your privacy and confidentiality (others in the community/ workplace will be told)
-Being held to a different standard, i.e., less will be expected of you
If I Want to Disclose, When Should I Do It?
There is no exact point in time that is best to disclose, however, each has its advantages and disadvantages. You have the right to disclose at any time during your employment. You also have the right not to disclose. The Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA)1 states that employers cannot ask questions that will likely reveal the existence of a disability before making a job offer.
If I Want to Disclose, How Should I Do It?
•Let your employer know you have a medical condition. Steer clear of medical terms and a specific diagnosis. Instead provide examples of how your diagnosis affects you i.e., “I have a medical condition that affects my concentration.”
•You will need to provide information about the existence and extent of your diagnosis, how your condition may limit your functioning in the job, and the accommodations that address these barriers. YOU DO NOT need to disclose your entire medical record, progress notes or tests, etc.
•Focus on your abilities, not disabilities.
•Prepare and practice what you will say ahead of time.
•List your strengths and qualifications related to this job. You can also give examples of how your experiences will positively affect your work performance.
•Share what issues you may face in the workplace due to your diagnosis and try to word it in a positive way. For example, “My diagnosis requires me to take frequent breaks in order for me to stay productive.”
•Inform your employer of an action plan that works best for your safety if you become unwell at work. •Some employers may have policies and processes in place for disclosure, which may be helpful to look over and potentially use.