Talking about mental illness at work takes courage but speaking up and addressing it the same way you would a physical injury helps pave the way for a more empathetic and considerate work environment.

For instance, if you broke your leg and needed rest, you would talk to your boss about it.  Mental illness is no different. When you take this step, you’re not only helping yourself, but also those around you. Check out the following tips for approaching this important conversation confidently.  

Why should I talk to my boss about my mental illness?

According to mental health experts, an important part of your recovery is talking about your mental illness with the people around you who need to know what’s happening. By speaking up, you can help your boss understand your situation and work together to create a plan to support your mental wellness at work.

Do I have to disclose my mental illness to my boss?

No, it’s not a legal requirement and you can’t be fired for disclosing your mental illness to your boss. To learn more about your rights, review the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I don’t have a good relationship with my manager, what now?

Your relationship with your boss could be a factor in what’s affecting your mental health, if this is the case, you may want to speak with your HR department first. They may have insights on how to best speak to your manager and can perhaps help facilitate a conversation.  

Tips for talking to your boss about your mental illness

Choose a time that works for both parties If you can, try to arrange a suitable meeting time to bring up the topic.  

Pick a place where you feel comfortable – Try to meet or speak online in a place where you’ll be able to chat without interruption or noise. You can even suggest a walk, if you feel comfortable doing so.  

Engage a third party If it would make you more comfortable, you could arrange for a trusted colleague to join the conversation as a mediator.

Prepare what you’re going to say – No, you don’t need to prepare a PowerPoint, but rehearsing can lessen your anxiety.  

Give your employer ways to support you You may need flexibility with deadlines, a reduction in working hours, time for appointments, or additional mental health days. Give your boss tangible ways they can offer support and work on a plan together.

Take care of yourself Having this conversation helps you make the changes that will benefit you, but make sure you’re taking care of yourself outside of work too. Self-care, exercise, and a balanced diet can have a big impact on your sense of well-being.

Don’t play the shame game Our negative feelings about our own mental health can be strong, but don’t be ashamed of your mental health issues or speaking out about them. Feelings of shame often prevent people from getting the help they need.  

Use the resources available to you Many workplace benefit plans offer coverage to speak with a licensed professional. Refer to your workplace health and benefits provider to find out what your plan offers.