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How to talk about your mental health at work


1st October 2021

Making the decision to talk to your employer about your mental health can be difficult, but being upfront about it can help you get the care and support you need.

Disclosing your struggles can also be a great form of relief and help pave the way for open conversations in the future, destigmatizing mental health in general, and alleviating the feeling that you’re dealing with it on your own. 
 

How do I talk about mental health in my workplace?

Talking about your mental health is one thing, but feeling confident enough to start the conversation with your boss is a whole other story. We’ve put together the following tips to help you make the move:

  1. Ask a friend: If you feel uncomfortable or nervous talking to your boss about your mental health on your own, ask a trusted work colleague or someone from your HR department to accompany you. 
     
  2. Think about what you need: Be clear about why you’re disclosing this information in the first place, and what support or changes you’re hoping for/need, for example: fewer responsibilities or longer deadlines, flexible work hours or time off, and remote work options.

    Your HR department will be able to give you guidance around your organisation’s policies.
     
  3. Choose the right time and place: You can’t always predict what your mental health is going to be like, but you can prepare in advance by setting some time with your boss to talk about it. Ideally, a time that is quiet and a place that is private will help ensure you feel as comfortable as possible to speak freely. 
     
  4. Practice: If you’re concerned about how your boss might respond, consider doing a practice run with a friend or doctor first. Write down the main topics you would like to discuss so you can concentrate on having a quality two-way conversation with your boss. That way, you’ll feel much more prepared and relaxed when the time comes. 
     
  5. Take care of yourself: Make sure you’re taking proper care of yourself inside and outside of work. Talking to your boss is the first step to looking after yourself at work, but don’t forget about self-care, exercise, and a balanced diet, all of which can have a big impact on your overall sense of well-being. It's a good idea to chat with your local GP or health professional to discuss other treatment options which may be suited to you such as medication, psychology, or counselling.
     

Do I have to tell my boss about my mental health condition?

You are not legally required to tell your employer that you have a mental health condition unless it affects the safety of you and your co-workers. 

Having said that, talking to your boss about your mental health is something that you should feel comfortable doing if and when you feel like it.
 

I don’t want everyone to know about my mental health.

Under the Privacy Act, if you tell your employer you have a mental health condition, they can't disclose it to anyone else without your consent.


Do I have a right to take mental health sick days?

If you are employed on a full-time basis, the National Employment Standards (overseen by the Fair Work Ombudsman), states that employees can take 10 sick days per year. This includes leave for stress and other mental health-related issues. 

Additionally, the Fair Work Act prevents employers from discriminating against you if you are dealing with mental health challenges. This means you cannot be dismissed, demoted, or have the terms of your employment changed based on your mental health.


MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Help is available - you are not alone.

  • If you need professional support, please contact your doctor, local health centre, or one of the services listed here. Family and friends can also call upon these services for advice and assistance on how to support someone who is struggling.
     
  • If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate assistance by contacting your trusted healthcare professional or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
     
  • If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, seek immediate assistance by calling Triple Zero (000).


You can also contact the following organisations for mental health support: 


We're here to support you

Our team of Psychologists and Employment Coaches work collaboratively to help you overcome challenges and become the best version of you. 

We provide:

  • Tailored Mental Health Support to help you address any mental health challenges that might be affecting your ability to get, or keep a job. 
     
  • Individual Vocational Support to equip you with the skills you need to enter the workforce.  
     
  • Career counselling to determine which jobs or industries would be best suited to your skills, experience, and goals for the future. 
     
  • WorkWell Training to manage your health & wellbeing and increase employability skills. 
     
  • Tailored Post Placement Support to assist and manage any challenges you might have when adjusting to your new job.


Contact HELP to find out more about our allied health services, and how we can support you on your journey to work.