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Is it Appropriate to Share a Mental Health Diagnosis with Your Employer?

A person afflicted with some type of mental health condition faces a myriad of different types of challenges. Some of those are employment-related issues. Amongst employment matters connected with a mental health diagnosis is an essential question of whether an employee should share the existence of a condition with an employer. The answer to this question is not a simple “yes” or “no.”

Personal Decision Making and Disclosing a Mental Health Diagnosis

In the proverbial grand scheme of things, the decision to disclose a mental health diagnosis to an employer is personal. Absent the need for some sort of workplace accommodation as discussed in a moment, a person with a mental health diagnosis is not obliged to share this information with an employer.

According to the Social Security Administration, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in five people will experience a diagnosis of some type of mental health condition during their adult lives. The most common diagnoses are:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • PTSD
  • bipolar disorder
  • schizophrenia

The prevalence of mental health conditions among the U.S. adult populations underscores the reality that in nearly any workplace there are people with some type of mental health diagnosis. The fact that a fairly significant percentage of the adult population is diagnosed with a mental health condition does lessen the stigma that some people perceive to be associated with this type of diagnosis.

Related resource: 10 Most Affordable Top-Ranked Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Disclosure of a Mental Health Diagnosis and the Need for Workplace Accommodation

Certain mental health conditions impact a person’s ability to undertake certain tasks and activities. This can include work-related tasks. With that noted, a person with one or another of these mental health diagnoses may be able to undertake the basic elements of a position of employment provided there are some reasonable modifications made to the job tasks or work environment.

The American with Disabilities Act establishes an employee’s right to seek certain workplace and job-related accommodations. An employer is obliged to make reasonable accommodations to permit an employee the ability to carry out his or her job duties even when afflicted with some sort of mental health condition.

In a situation in which an employee is able to improve performance and better his or her work environment, that worker should share a mental health diagnosis with specific members of an employer’s management team. In fact, when seeking reasonable accommodation in the workplace, an employee needs to provide medical documentation of the underlying mental health diagnosis to support the request. The supporting medical materials also underscore that certain reasonable accommodations in the workplace are possible and implementing them will be effective.

Even when seeking a mental health work accommodation doesn’t necessitate broadcasting a person’s diagnosis “far and wide.” Only that person or those people in management responsible for making decisions regarding work place accommodation need to be advised of an employee’s medical status.

In the final analysis, there is no set timeframe in which an employee needs to disclose a mental health diagnosis to an employer. Only when a reasonable workplace accommodation of some sort might enhance an employee’s work efforts does disclosing a mental health condition potentially become a bit more pressing.