Workers fear disclosure of mental health issues will affect their careers

Here’s how you can discuss the issue with your manager (Photo: Getty)

World Mental Health Day is just one date in the calendar that encourages us not only to take care of our mental health, but also to talk about it.

While general attitudes towards mental illness have undeniably increased in recent years, there is still a significant amount of stigma – some of which lives on in the workplace.

Research exclusively shared with, by HR and learning experts MHR, reveals that 47% of employees believe that disclosing mental health issues to their employer would have a negative impact on their careers.

The survey of more than 6,000 UK workers found that almost half of Britons would feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health with a boss or HR member.

Data comparing the number of sick days employees took in 2020 and 2021 and the reasons why, shows poor mental health is increasingly a problem.

A perfectly valid reason for getting sick, mental health is attributed to sick days 16% more than last year.

Despite a 26% increase in the number of organizations offering mental health first aid training, it is still a taboo subject in the workplace.

Other research has shown that wellness courses, which are becoming more and more common in large companies, either do not have the desired effect or do not do enough to make employees feel safe when they are. ‘they discuss mental health.

Until corporate cultures change, workers will continue to feel anxious about sharing their mental health with employers.

Jeanette Wheeler, Director of Human Resources at MHR, tells us: “People who recognize that they need time off to look after their well-being should not feel threatened to admit the truth to their employer.

“Creating a safe space for mental health conversations goes beyond just company-wide training, it comes down to an organization’s culture. “

Because of this, workers lack confidence in how to solve the problem when they need it.

Jeanette says, “Talking to your boss about mental health issues can be intimidating, but it’s an important conversation to have.”

There are different ways to approach it.

Preparation before the conversation

“You don’t need to have all the answers, but you should consider what kind of help you want from your employer before you talk to them because they are likely to ask for it,” says Jeanette.

“For example, explain to your manager that you have spoken to your GP and that he has informed you that you would benefit from taking time off work due to stress, or perhaps you would like to discuss your workload and how it is handled within the team because it causes you stress.

“It’s your employer’s role to work with you to find a solution that works for both parties. “

Face to face

“While face-to-face conversations are always preferable,” says Jeanette, “those who have difficulty talking about their mental health issues or who work remotely may wish to contact their manager via email first.

“It can help start the conversation and create a space for them to talk face to face at a later stage. “

You may also find that you can communicate an emotionally charged situation better in writing than in person.

Out of words?

It can be hard to know what to do Actually to say.

“Whether you are writing an email, chatting on the phone or in person, to bring up the topic of mental health with your manager, you can first ask them for a private conversation and say something like, ‘I had struggling with my well-being and I would like to discuss it with you ”.

“If you want to request leave to help you manage your mental health, you should speak to your GP who can advise you and provide you with an illness notice to give to your employer.

“When you have these conversations, as difficult as it may be, try not to get carried away with specific wording, but allow yourself to be honest.”

Difficult managers

If you don’t have a close or comfortable relationship with your manager, mental health may seem like a trivial thing to discuss, but it’s important that you do it anyway.

“For those who don’t feel comfortable speaking to their manager, they may consider speaking to a human resources representative, mental health rescuer, or trusted colleague.

“Many companies have employee assistance programs that are self-employed and can be accessed for help, advice and guidance,” she says.

Need some free time

Sometimes asking for time off is essential for recovery, but given our attitudes towards mental health, it can seem like a big request.

Jeanette said: “As with starting conversations about your mental health, asking for time off because of it can be nerve-racking. However, taking time when necessary is vital.

“The mental health charity Mind suggests before you request time off, you should consider how and when to do it, and how much information you want to give.

“Don’t feel as though you have to go into too many personal details, as you wouldn’t if you were taking leave for another illness, and instead focus on the impact of your problems on your job and on support. that you would like to receive, employer to provide to you.

Be treated differently

There is a difference between making useful adjustments and being treated as less than after revealing issues.

“To help you improve your mental health, your manager may adjust your workload or the way you work, for example by adjusting work routines, the level of involvement in additional activities, or maybe even adding regular check-ups with you to see how you are doing more frequently, ”says Jeanette.

“These types of changes need to be viewed positively because they are actions taken by your manager or employer to help you.

“If, however, you feel that you are being treated with a lack of care, respect or consideration for the challenges you face with your mental health, you should speak to your human resources representative, your mental health rescuer. or any other appropriate alternative management. so that they can take appropriate action to deal with the situation.

“Remember that there are laws to protect you from discrimination in the workplace, including physical and mental health issues, and that no form of discrimination should be tolerated.”

To discuss mental health in an open and non-judgmental space, join our Facebook group Mentally Yours.

Follow us on Twitter at @MentallyYrs.

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