Disclosing is an entirely personal choice. It’s sad to think that would be the case and that people feel as though they need to hide this part of them. Some people make that personal choice despite everything stacked against them. The stigma is strong, especially in the workplace. The workplace values productivity, almost beyond all else. They want their employees to be at their peak. So then, should we even make this decision at all, for fear of repercussions? Why would someone decide to speak up and disclose if they face appearing unproductive and therefore useless?
What I say may seem like a dramatization to some, however that is the case for many people. There’s this assumption, from both those with lived experience and their employers, that if you take a day off to replenish yourself you are a weak link. What happens if you need to take a leave? Well, those feelings and thoughts are just magnified. So what is the link between reality and what you experience as someone with mental illness?
The two are very much connected, sadly. There is definitely stigma in the workplace. Even though it is encouraged for employees to open up to their employers and be vocal about their needs, those with mental illnesses are definitely treated differently than someone who is physically ill.
I have always feared to disclose or worse, ousted. Academia requires you to be at the top of your game, 100% of the time. Times off are unheard of. So why would someone disclose in this environment?
Being honest about your needs is important, not only for your employer but for you, most importantly. Ignoring the positives for employers, by disclosing you can set boundaries that would make you an overall productive person. There are laws that protect against backlash when you set these respectful boundaries, however for many people that may not offer any sort of comfort.
Ask yourself in this case: is it worth your health? Be honest. Is this job honestly worth your health? You will always find an employer who offers support for those diagnosed with a mental illness. You will always find support for your respectful requests. Don’t be afraid when it comes to your health.
Does that mean you have to disclose to every employer you come across? This is a personal question you need to ask yourself. When do you disclose, how you disclose and why you disclose are questions you need to ask yourself. These questions are difficult to ask and won’t always yield definite answers. “Well, it depends.” “Well, maybe I should in this context but not the other.” Being as honest to yourself as you can will define your answers.
So, what do I recommend? Be honest with yourself, first and foremost. These are personal questions -whether you should disclose or not- because of the society we live in. I can’t ignore that there is stigma and that would unquestionably colour your response to whether you should disclose or not.
Have you had to make the decision to disclose? Do you avoid your mental health completely at work for fear of any repercussions? Do you have any tips on how to disclose? Mention them in the comments and I will make another post on the topic!