Diagnosis Disclosure in the Workplace

Deciding whether or not to disclose about your mental illness in the workplace can put you in a very compromising position. On one hand, you want to be comfortable in your workplace, but on the other hand, you may fear the chance of being shamed and judged because of it.

I faced this exact dilemma as I was on a job search. However, I questioned how much about my mental illness I should reveal or whether I should reveal it at all. Most importantly, I found that the best way to deal with this baffling decision is to weigh out the pros and cons of disclosing your mental illness in the workplace.

The social self. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pros of disclosure in the workplace:

  • To acquire accommodations and protections from the Americans with Disability Act
  • To be honest with your coworkers but most importantly with yourself
  • Condense stigma
  • Help those in your work environment be more aware of mental illnesses
  • By law, it is required to keep your personal record confidential

Cons of disclosure in the workplace:

  • Not needing any accommodations
  • You fear the negative consequences of stigma
  • Protection of your privacy
  • The inability to progress up the employment ladder because of your disclosure

According to Occupational Medicine of Oxford Journals, their data revealed that discrimination in the workplace fell within the following three problem areas:

A framework for understanding these phenomena conceptualizes stigma as comprised of the three problems of: knowledge (ignorance or misinformation), attitudes (prejudice) and behaviour (discrimination)[8]. We have recently used this framework to undertake a survey of employer’s knowledge, attitudes and workplace behaviours [9]. Of the 502 employers who participated, a number of concerns were reported about hiring applicants with a mental health problem including: (i) symptom concerns such as threat to safety of other employees or clients (17%), person would be incapable of handling stress (14%) and strange or unpredictable behaviour (11%), (ii) work performance concerns, particularly impaired job performance (20%), (iii) work personality concerns, particularly absenteeism (29%) and (iv) administrative concerns including level of monitoring needed (7%) and negative attitude of other employees (2%).

In a study by Manning and White [10], standard of previous work (89%), job description (87%), whether receiving treatment (69%), time off sick in previous year (68%) and diagnosis (64%) were reported as factors always or usually considered in hiring decisions. Fenton and colleagues [11] similarly found that employment record (78%), sickness record (69%), diagnosis (36%), detention under the Mental Health Act (36%) and medical opinion regarding fitness to work (7%) were most commonly reported as influential factors. Read Full Journal Article

There are many more reasons for and against disclosure, but this decision will include figuring out which approach is best for you based on the type of environment you are in. It would be helpful to consider this decision while you are job searching to help alleviate any future stressors.

Published by

Julia Cardoso

Julia Cardoso is the Mental Health Staff Writer with a focus on Anxiety Disorders. She is a graduate of Emmanuel College with a BA in Sociology and is on her second year MSW program at Simmons College. Julia is passionate about Mental Health and eliminating the stigma. View all posts by Julia Cardoso

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