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/ Overview / Blog / April 2017 / How to Positively Disclose Mental Ill Health at Work

How to Positively Disclose Mental Ill Health at Work

03 April 2017
We all want to be valued for who we really are in the workplace. One of the biggest issues our clients face is how to disclose they have mental ill health to their employers. Each year we are supporting more and more people with mental ill health into work, with our specialist wellbeing services.

We have created this guide to help you have a positive conversation about mental health at work. It can be used alongside our positive disclosure worksheet. The worksheet was designed by one of our Job Coaches, Alice, to help our clients structure positive conversations about mental health in the workplace. Download the worksheet (word doc, 17.1 KB, downloads in new tab or window) here.

There are many reasons why you may want to disclose mental ill health to your employer.  You may need time off for counselling, or to access the government’s mental health in-work support service, Access to Work (opens in new tab or window).

Legally under the Equality Act (opens in new tab or window), employers cannot discriminate against people experiencing long-term mental ill health. That's not to say that the process of disclosing mental ill health is any less nerve wracking.
Mental Health is Misunderstood
Image Credit: Mental Health Foundation (opens in new tab or window)

The Positives of Disclosing
Positive disclosure is all about presenting a full picture of your capabilities to your employer. It will help to demonstrate exactly what support they need to put in place to get the best out of you at work.

By listing your skills and competencies as well as the challenges you face and the reasonable adjustments needed to tackle them, employers are able to clearly see how easy it is to support you to perform at your best. 

For example, if you have depression and you’re working in a customer facing role you could have gained the ability to empathetically put yourself in the shoes of another.

How positive disclosure works
Listing ways in which you’ve overcome adversity can be a very attractive prospect to an employer. Your ability to be resilient can showcase skills such as problem-solving, emotional intelligence and an ability to work pro-actively.

To start the positive discourse process, identify what you need from your line manager (reasonable adjustments). You can place this in the left-hand column of the worksheet. Next, in the middle section of the page, detail the reason you need this (the workplace barrier) and finally in the right-hand column list the benefit to the employer of making the reasonable adjustment.

If you’re finding the process challenging, one of our job coaches may be able to help you through our range of employment and wellbeing services. To find your nearest Shaw Trust centre visit (opens in new tab or window) . If you have any questions, feel free to message us on social media or via email (opens in new window). Alternatively, visit the great Rethink Mental Illness resource on workplace reasonable adjustments (opens in new tab or window).

Fiona’s Story
Fiona arrived at Shaw Trust after being out of work for six months. Fiona has anxiety, which she felt was a barrier to finding work.

She decided to disclose her anxiety while job hunting because she had a gap on her CV. Fiona believed that having an open and honest conversation with potential employers would help to build a good working relationship based on trust.

Fiona said,

If you’ve given them the information and you’ve not been dishonest about anything, then the rest is their issue (if they discriminate) and you’ve played your part,...."

"We’re still at the early stage of people starting to recognise mental health, unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do."

"We don’t talk enough about it, which is important to do as that’s when empathy is built,” she said.

Fiona credits good work as being beneficial for her mental health, she told us:

“Just starting a job helped with my confidence and anxiety, I still experience anxiety and if it gets to a point where it is affecting me then I will say and usually, that is enough to resolve it.

Her advice to someone who is in a similar position is, Hang in there, there are genuine people out there who can and will listen to you.

Triggers and Signs of Mental Health
Image Credit: Mental Health Foundation (opens in new tab or window)
What’s next?
Find out if you are eligible to access our wellbeing and mental health services (opens in a new tab or window)


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