Should You Discuss Mental Health Disabilities with Coworkers?
Should You Talk About Your Mental Health Disability with Your Coworkers?
Society has come a long way when it comes to
recognizing the importance of treating mental health conditions. However, it’s
still common for some stigma to exist regarding conditions such as depression
and bipolar disorder, and you may worry about how your coworkers will view your
disability. Now that you’re ready to go back to work, you can use this guide to
determine if and how you talk about your mental health disability to your
Recognize Your Right to Privacy
The first thing you need to know is that mental health disabilities are protected under privacy laws that allow you to be in control of who knows about your diagnosis. Although your coworkers may need to know things such as the times when you’ll be out of the workplace, you don’t have to tell them anything more than the fact that you’re taking personal time off or that you’re treating a health condition. Since many people live with chronic illnesses and there are many jobs you can work disabled, this is usually enough to stop people from asking further questions.
Decide How Much You Want to Disclose
In some cases, you may feel it’s important to talk about mental health issues with your coworkers. For instance, you may decide to be an advocate for more openness about the importance of seeking treatment for depression, or you may feel a coworker needs an explanation for the accommodations you use to be successful. In these cases, you can decide how much you want to share. For instance, you may state that you have a specific diagnosis but not go into your symptoms.
Choose the Language You Want to Use
There are several ways to name a mental health disability. For instance, some people keep it vague and simply say they’re managing a medical condition or a biochemical imbalance. Others may name their condition specifically. All of these options are perfectly fine, and you should use the language you feel best fits into your work environment.
Keep the Focus on Your Work
Naturally, you don’t want people to worry
unnecessarily about your wellbeing, and you also want to avoid feeding the
workplace gossip mill. For this reason, you need to keep your conversation
focused on how your disability affects the workplace. Your coworkers don’t need
to know whether or not you’ve ever been hospitalized, but they may need to know
why having accommodations such as a quiet workspace or a flexible work schedule
is important for your productivity.
Highlight Your Abilities
As with any type of disability, avoid having people only see you as your diagnosis. If you’ve decided to share about your diagnosis, be willing to also highlight a few benefits. For instance, living with a mental health disability may make you more compassionate with customers. Alternatively, your condition may bring out your creativity or allow you to focus on tedious tasks. These are all positive attributes you bring to the workplace that help your coworkers see you as a valuable contributor to your shared goals.
Whether you’re living with a mental or physical disability, make sure you find the right job for your skill set. There are many amazing jobs for the disabled available, and you’re likely to find what you’re looking for on the listings provided by disABLEDperson, Inc. If you’d like to learn more about our charitable organization, please give us a call today at 760-420-1269.