- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
It’s a controversial question asked by plenty of people. Should you tell your employer that you see a therapist?
It sounds scary to bring up. They may treat you differently or unfairly if you tell them, or they may be willing to work with you and help you if you’re not feeling mentally well. It’s a hard question to answer, but you need to weigh your options and find the right decision for you.
NEGATIVES OF TELLING YOUR EMPLOYER
To start off with the negatives, it might not always be in your favor to tell your employer. If you are a fully functioning and capable person with a chronic mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, your boss may not understand.
They might treat you differently, give you fewer responsibilities, and less room to grow because they believe you aren’t mentally capable.
Your employer might simply not understand mental health either. Knowledge of taking care of your mental health is relatively new and many people still have a hard time grasping the reality of it. Telling your boss you have been mentally unwell could result in them thinking you are not as capable as the rest of your coworkers, which isn’t the case, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t understand.
POSITIVES OF TELLING YOUR EMPLOYER
With the bad out of the way, there are positives to this too. You may need to tell your boss if you can’t manage your mental health with work properly yet. Informing your boss will let him understand better. If you’re too depressed to go to work, it would be better to inform them of this knowledge so if you call off they understand it’s not just because you want to skip work.
While I stated that your boss might not understand if you tell them, and treat you poorly, it can go the same way if you don’t tell them. They could be very understanding and help you cope at work. If there is clear communication, your boss will not get upset due to your actions influenced by your mental disability.
You could also be legally protected against discrimination if you disclose that information to your employer. If you have a mental disorder that affects your performance and you let your employer know, legally they have to accommodate you.
IF YOU NEED ACCOMMODATIONS
If you are someone with a severe mental disability that needs accommodations in the workplace to ensure your success, you should probably let your employer know. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law.
The law prohibits discrimination against hiring, compensation, benefits, training, layoffs, terminations, and promotions for people with mental disabilities, just to name a few. It states if you have a disability, you should inform your employer and they will work with you.
In the ADA law, a disability is defined as:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- A record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
- Being regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
If you are qualified for a job, meaning you have the skill, experience, and education required for the job, but have a mental handicap, you cannot be discriminated against. However, this is only if you tell your employer about your mental health issues.
Your employer can accommodate you if you have any problems with a normal work environment. Under the ADA, they are required to help with accommodations that involve the following:
- Maintaining regular attendance
- Dealing with the change of starting a new job
- Nervousness about interacting with others
- Understanding how to manage time
- Organizing information
- Handling stress and emotions
- Maintaining focus
So if you have trouble involving any of those from the list due to your mental health, inform your employer. They, by law, are supposed to accommodate you if you ask for it. You need to be vocal and communicate properly with your boss, and you should be able to maintain a healthy work environment.
If you do not let them know, you are not protected by law against discrimination for your behavior caused by your mental illness, so keep that in mind when making the decision whether or not to tell them.
Should you tell your employer that you see a therapist? It’s a difficult question to answer. If you have a mental disorder that you can easily manage and won’t affect your work, then it wouldn’t hurt you to withhold the information. However, you need to understand that you are responsible for maintaining your mental health and not relying on the accommodations of your employer, since they don’t know if you need any.
Withholding the knowledge that you see a therapist puts a large responsibility on you to upkeep your work as if you have no mental disabilities. Your expectations from your employer will be held at the same level as everyone else who doesn’t need any accommodations for a mental health issue.
If you know for sure that you cannot handle the responsibilities of your job with your mental condition, then it is advised you tell your employer. Especially if you are on medication for it, that typically indicates your condition is more serious than those who do not need medication.
Telling your employer will relieve some of the pressure to do well in the workplace under those restrictions, as they will understand you do have a handicap. Accommodations can be made, and they will be more understanding if you have to miss work one day or you won’t be able to make a deadline.
By law, they will accommodate you for your mental disability if you need it, and they cannot discriminate against you.
At the end of the day, the choice is up to you whether or not you should tell your employer, especially if you don’t need any accommodations, but you should think long and hard about the decision, as it can affect your work environment.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell