One of the most powerful things you can do is talk openly about a personal experience of a mental health condition. You might be surprised by how many of your workmates have also experienced a mental health condition at some point in their life, or supported a loved one with a similar experience.
Courage is contagious, and talking about mental health conditions helps to change negative attitudes and stereotypes.
How to talk about it
There's no right or wrong time to tell others at work. Some people choose to discuss their anxiety or depression at the recruitment stage, while others might decide to tell their employer if stress becomes an issue, or following a diagnosis.
Planning out what you're going to say with a trusted person - a friend, family member, support worker, or health professional - can help you structure your ideas and the points you want to cover. You can also practice how the conversation might flow.
Think about who at work you will tell, how much detail you provide, where and when you will have the chat, a time you feel most relaxed and a place you're comfortable in.
We've developed a conversations planner to help you think about what you're going to say. There's space for you to type or write notes as you go.
Timing and setting
If you're thinking about talking to your manager or workmates, the timing and setting can play a big part in how comfortable you feel.
Some things to consider might include:
- Formal or relaxed - some people prefer to set a time and meet in a private room, while others feel more relaxed in a café or staff area.
- Morning or afternoon - are you more alert after your morning coffee? Is your manager usually free just after lunch?
- Short chat or longer discussion - what level of detail about your condition are you comfortable talking about? How much time will you need for the conversation
What to say
The level of detail you share with your employer and whether you talk about your specific diagnosis is up to you. Your discussion only has to cover the information your employer needs to help you. You might find it useful to think about:
- What are your reasons for talking about your condition?
- Are there any particular things your manager can do to support you, such as offering you flexible working conditions or an adjusted workload?
- Are there problems at work that are contributing to your mental health condition, like stress, bullying or harassment?
- Explain how your condition is affecting your ability to do your job - and if it isn't having any impact, be clear on this to avoid incorrect assumptions.
- Where can your manager get more information?
- Focus on the positive - your skills and strengths in your role.
Together with your manager, decide on the best way to talk about any issues going forward. They are legally obligated to keep your discussions confidential, so be clear on what, if anything, you'd like to be communicated to your workmates.
Finally, keep a written record of these discussions, noting down what you've agreed with you manager and when.
Having trouble figuring out what to say? This conversation planner can help:
Telling your workmates
It's also a good idea to discuss with your manager, what, if anything, you would like other team members to know about your experience. It's your decision who finds out and how, but keep in mind that they may be curious about adjustments being made for you. It's also worth asking if your organisation has a policy regarding employee privacy.
If you decide to tell your workmates, or give permission for your manager to inform the team or individual people, have a think about:
- How much detail are you comfortable revealing?
- Do you want to share your specific diagnosis, or more general information?
- If you'd prefer your manager told other workmates, what should they say?
- How will you answer potentially insensitive questions from workmates who don't understand what you are experiencing?
- How will you describe what's been happening?
Personal stories from the workplace
Watch people from a range of backgrounds talk about their experiences of mental health conditions in the workplace, and share their stories of recovery, support and resilience.