Why Workplace Openness About Mental Illness and Disability is Important
There is nothing more important for people struggling with mental illness or disabilities than a comfortable balance between work and daily life. Unfortunately society as a whole has not entirely moved past the stigma often associated with these health obstacles—but we need to continue to make steps to ensure that that does not last forever.
The most important thing that we can do to make conditions for those with mental illness and disabilities more comfortable is to not be afraid to talk about them. So much of our population is affected by mental illness, and many of these people do not feel secure enough to talk about it. They worry that maybe coworkers might think their disability could affect their work performance; or maybe if people knew, they wouldn’t want to be friends. Secrecy promotes anxiety, which directly opposes self-confidence; these factors discourage a healthy lifestyle and can in fact worsen mental health conditions. Stress can irritate your mental state, and therefore be dangerous to those battling these kinds of personal obstacles.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association and Statistics Canada, employees who found the majority of their time at work to be excessively stressful were more than three times more likely to experience major depression. This was in comparison to these who claimed low levels of stress in the workplace. But the fact is that many people with disabilities or mental illness are too scared to talk about it at work. That’s why we have to make openness about these subjects in the workplace the norm.
Create a dialogue.
A dialogue about your needs can help to lighten the stress. You do not have to disclose your mental illness, but if your experience is too stressful, it might be in your best interest to explain a little bit about your illness to to your boss. For instance if you are on medication, mornings might be a little difficult. Being open with management might mean later shifts or options that have you doing tasks that work better for you. Certain mental illnesses may cause mood swings or anxious behavior. These may confuse coworkers and managers if they are not aware of your situation, leading them to question your character. If people are made to feel comfortable disclosing their struggles in the workplace, they will perform better.
Be a trailblazer.
Whether you work with someone who has a disability or a mental illness or vice versa, create an environment of honestly. Whether it is you or someone else who suffers from these obstacles, there needs to be more understanding on the subject. Having empathy, also, can be the key to a more comfortable workplace. When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you start to realize things from their perspective.