Friday 23 February 2018

What you need to know about dealing with mental health issues in workplace

John Saunders

Knowing how, when and if you should tell your employer and colleagues about your mental health problem can be difficult. What do you say? How can you put the right supports in place if your workplace doesn't know? What should you do? How will they react?

The first thing to remember is that people with mental health problems can and do recover.

With the right supports in place, people can and do stay in work. Equality law is there to protect you, and people with a mental health problem cannot be treated less favourably in the workplace because of a mental health issue.

There is no formula to what you should or should not tell your employer when you are experiencing, or have experienced, a mental health problem. Some people have had very good experiences in talking about their mental health problem with their employer and colleagues, while others have not.

However, there are a few things to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of disclosing to your employer:

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our life – so what you are experiencing is a very ordinary part of being human. With the right supports and recognising what you need, you can balance your health with the demands of your job.

People with experience of mental health difficulties are covered by the Employment Equality Acts and the Equal Status Acts, so equality law protects you in the workplace. It's your choice – disclosure of mental health problems at work is up to you.

If you are going to tell your line manager, ask for a private meeting where you can discuss your mental health, how it relates to your work, and what might help you manage your health so you can perform well.

Agree a plan of changes with your boss and a time to meet again to discuss whether things have improved. If you're not sure what might help, try small steps, and make a note of whether they help or not.

Work is just one

So try to consider the supports in your life outside of work that might be helpful. You should never feel pressurised into telling someone that you have a mental health problem. It is up to you whether or not you want them to know.

Some people have had a positive response. Others have been met with negative reactions, but, in spite of this, being open and honest can assist your recovery.

Having an open culture in the workplace and prioritising mental health awareness and wellness are some ways that workplaces can proactively foster a healthy working environment.

Mental health problems are an everyday part of life. When workplaces having clear steps and guidelines on how to engage with employees on wellbeing and mental health, it is easier to form an appropriate proactive strategy to address a situation.

See Change offers free training for employers on mental health issues in the workplace. For details see: www.seechange.ie/workplace.

John Saunders is director of Shine and See Change. Shineonline.ie and seechange.ie.

Irish Independent

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