Tips for Handling the Disclosure of Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace

Many people cringe at the thought of telling people about their mental health conditions. No one wants to be seen as different or othered. You may worry that your coworkers will see you differently. Fortunately, the social stigma surrounding mental illness has been steadily declining for decades.

Many modern workplaces prioritize mental health and wellness in all employees—even those not suffering from a specific, diagnosable mental health concern.

Still, disclosing any health condition can be uncomfortable and challenging. Do you have to do it? Are there reasons to volunteer the information? In this article, we take a look at how you can navigate mental health disclosures at work.

What Constitutes a Mental Health Condition?

Mental health conditions can have a pretty broad definition, including everything from bipolar disorder to more common ailments like excessive stress and anxiety. All mental health conditions have the capacity to negatively affect your quality of life and even impact your work performance.

Do Mental Health Conditions Need to be Disclosed?

In most cases, there is no legal requirement to disclose mental health conditions to your employer. Most people do so voluntarily because there are legal benefits to doing so. You are legally entitled to reasonable accommodations for any and all disabilities.

In the same way an employee bound to a wheelchair is entitled to infrastructure that supports their mobility concerns, you are entitled to certain workplace conditions that make your mental health concerns more manageable.

For these conditions to become legally enforceable, you will need an official diagnosis. It’s important to understand that the extent of your accommodations may be limited. For example, your employer may be required to provide you with a space with reduced influence to certain triggering distractions, like loud noises.

In other situations, you may be entitled to reasonable accommodations in the form of extended deadlines or short breaks throughout the day to take your medications or perform other health maintenance-related tasks. Your basic job-related responsibilities will remain the same but your employer should be willing to work with you to make them more manageable.

You are not legally entitled to relief from the overall responsibilities of your job. If you find specific aspects of your job requirement to be emotionally triggering, you may need to try and negotiate independently with your employer for modifications. If an appropriate agreement cannot be reached, you might need to look for an employment opportunity more closely aligned with your comfort level.

How to Decide If You Want to Disclose Your Mental Illness

As described above, the primary reason to disclose your mental illness is to receive some sort of modification or accommodation. If you are doing well at work and do not feel like anything needs to be changed, disclosing your mental health conditions will not be strictly necessary.

You may decide to do it anyway if you think it will make you feel more comfortable having your coworkers know about it. Social stigma surrounding mental illness is significantly less pronounced than it used to be.

In many cases, people find that their employers and supervisors are very supportive of their needs. Ultimately, that is a personal choice. Below, we look at a few tips for navigating this process.

Know Your Rights

It helps to go in understanding what your legal rights are. Your employer is not legally allowed to treat you any differently because of your mental illness. They can’t change your responsibilities. They certainly can’t fire you. They can’t even tell other people within the organization unless you give them permission to do so.

Have an Objective in Mind

Mental health disclosures are private and personal. If you are going to tell your employer potentially sensitive information, it’s a good idea to go in knowing what you hope to accomplish. If you are hoping to attain a specific accommodation, that may make your motivations obvious.

Sometimes, however, people find upon reflection that they aren’t sure they are ready to share their health information.


While you don’t need to disclose your mental health struggles at work, many people find it beneficial. Not only does it open the door to potential accommodations, but it can have a freeing emotional impact. Many people find it easier to manage their mental health conditions when the people in their lives are aware and supportive of them.

It’s certainly not mandatory. However, you may find that it is a freeing experience to name your struggles and promote proper health in your workspace.