Disclosing a Mental Illness at Work

Jan 25, 2023
Mental Health

1 in 5 Canadians experience mental health challenges in any given year, and by the time Canadians reach the age of 40, 1 in 2 have or have had a mental illness. Despite this, 39% of workers in Ontario wouldn’t disclose a mental illness to their employers and 64% of Ontario workers would be concerned about how work would be affected if a colleague had a mental illness. If you are experiencing challenges at work because of a mental illness, it can be difficult to know what to do. Stigma around mental illness is still very prevalent in communities, but when we tell our stories and speak to our lived experiences, we are actively working to change the narrative around mental illness and create meaningful change.

When it comes to employment, challenges to our mental health can have a significant impact on our work. These disruptions may look different for everyone, but can include things like withdrawing from others, acting unusual, taking more time off/more absences than usual, and loss of productivity. It can feel intimidating to speak with an employer about your experiences with mental illness, but these conversations are important to ensure you have the accommodations you need to feel supported in your mental health at work.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some things to consider:

If you are experiencing challenges to your mental health, consult with your doctor or medical professional to find a treatment plan that works for you. This is a really great place to start, especially if you are experiencing new symptoms. Know that you are not alone.

Mental health professionals and doctors can also guide you to access helpful community resources that can help.

In Canada, you don’t have to provide an employer with a diagnosis in order to request accommodations. In a conversation with your employer, you can tell them that you are experiencing health challenges and discuss what you would need to do your work. Is it a matter of changing your hours? Are there methods to complete tasks that would work better for you?

Employers have to look into providing reasonable accommodations for people with a disability or mental illness.

When you take steps to request accommodations at work, your actions may help others who would benefit from similar accommodations.

Discrimination in workplaces is a very real and valid concern and while there are certain protections in place to combat discrimination, it can still happen. It can help to think through all your options before making decisions and choose a path that works best for you and the situation at work.

As an employer, you can help create mentally healthy workplaces to support the overall health and wellbeing of your employees. When people feel like they have support when they aren’t feeling their best, it reduces stress and allows people to take care of their needs. Building a culture that is inclusive and supportive benefits everyone.

For more information, please take a look at CMHA’s resource about mental illness in the workplace: https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/mental-illnesses-in-the-workplace/

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