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  • Kate Aronoff, MA, LPC

To Tell or Not to Tell? Navigating Mental Health Issues at Work

We have certainly come a long way in terms of de-stigmatizing mental health issues and the act of receiving help for such issues. However, we still have such a long way to go in this regard. Unfortunately, legitimate fear about the consequences of telling someone about a mental health condition still plagues so many. Disclosing that you have a mental health condition to a trusted friend can be daunting to say the least, let alone disclosing to an employer. Here, we will examine the pros and cons of doing just that.

The Drawbacks

The downside of telling a coworker, supervisor, or HR representative about a mental health condition may seem rather obvious, regrettably. Many employees fear that their employer and/or coworkers will retaliate against them after their disclosure. Being called “crazy” and having colleagues tiptoe around so as not to upset you is not a very comfortable office environment, after all. Retaliation can take many forms, such as being passed over for promotions, raises, or new projects; being ignored; being teased; or even getting fired. The threat of this is enough to make anyone think twice before speaking up.

The Good Side

Believe it or not, disclosing a mental health condition could actually have significant benefits. This is especially true for those individuals whose symptoms may noticeably affect their work performance. If an employee is proactive and discloses such a condition before it affects their work performance, it could even save their job.

As you may know, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of individuals with many health conditions, requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations whenever possible. A reasonable accommodation might be something like a flexible schedule to be able to attend counseling appointments or time off when symptoms flare up.

The trick about this ADA protection and accommodation is that the employer has to know about the need--otherwise, how can they provide it? So, by telling an employer about your condition, you may actually be protecting yourself and your job in the long run.

Think about it

To tell or not to tell is certainly not a simple decision, and very much depends on your particular condition, symptoms, workplace, and job duties. It is a good idea to be very thoughtful about what and how you disclose. And of course, getting an outsider’s opinion is always helpful. If you are interested in discussing how your mental health condition intersects with your work, contact Empower Therapy at 541-234-3271 or

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