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Mental Health Issues Occur in the Workplace: How to Handle Telling Your Boss About Treatment

Many adults struggle with mental illness in the workplace but are not sure how to share this with their bosses. Mental health issues still come with stigma and challenges associated with sharing it widely with family and loved ones. When it comes to sharing the struggle, there are some tips to make it a more smooth dialogue with a boss. 


Prior to disclosing to an employer about plans for treatment, it is important to decide whether it is necessary to tell them. There are upsides and downsides to telling people about it, especially at work. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace. The law includes disabilities and mental impairments, which includes mental or psychological disorders. To benefit from the protection of the ADA, there are some cons to letting a boss know about a mental illness that impacts a person’s life. Stigma is still attached to mental illness, which may build a fear of being treated differently at work. It may also mean missing out on opportunities for new positions or advancement if a boss believes the job cannot be done. It is a relief to let people know what is going on and feel free to share what is happening without worrying about repercussions. 

Tips for Sharing

When it comes to sharing mental illness, it has to be serious enough to warrant letting a boss know the situation and that treatment may be needed. Here are some additional tips to consider when thinking about how or when to share:

  • Know personal rights: the law affords some rights for people. Everyone has a right to reasonable accommodations for a disability. If it won’t cause undue hardship to have a month or two off for treatment, a person is entitled to leave. The FMLA is another law that ensures time off for up to 12 weeks of mental health treatment.
  • Prepare what to say: difficult conversations are easy to get wrong without preparation. Rwite out a script of what needs to be shared and practice with a friend. Be ready with clear thoughts and ideas so the boss will help make things clear and provide a productive conversation. 
  • See a counselor for help: a counselor or professional may be able to help speak about the issue or someone from HR that may offer support to the boss and let them know what is going on. When signed up for treatment or evaluated, it helps to have it explained how long the program is and why it is necessary

Returning to work feels difficult after being through a tough transition. Be prepared to answer questions but know the rights available to not speak to anyone unless necessary about it. As long as rights to privacy are not invaded, feel free to disclose only what is comfortable. Don’t be afraid to bring therapists in if necessary to dialogue about things. It is more important to get help than worry about what others think, but it is important to keep an image at work that is professional, so always be sure to keep things professional as much as possible to keep the working relationship strong at the organization or company. 

Guest House knows the decision to seek mental health treatment is not taken lightly. Perhaps you are also seeking assistance for an addiction issue that has come up. It is hard to do so much at once, but we sort it out step-by-step so you can feel like you make a difference in your journey of recovery. For more information about sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call 855-483-7800.