July 15, 2021, by indybamra1
How To Manage Mental Health Challenges in the Workplace
By Christian Jameson-Warren, Employability Education Projects Officer
If you’ve experienced a long-term mental health challenge, you may worry about talking to a prospective employer about it. Some people worry about saying the wrong thing or if they’ll be viewed less favourably than other candidates. In reality, sharing any information is entirely up to you. I’d always advise thinking about when it might be advantageous to mention, for example asking for adjustments at an assessment centre or support when starting work. The following points can help you if you do decide you want to talk about it but are unsure how to.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 is legislation designed to give rights to those with ‘protected characteristics’; disability is one of those characteristics. This allows for mental health difficulty to come under the protection of the law. However, speaking to an employer about a mental health challenge can still be intimidating.
The below excerpt is taken from ‘Explaining your mental health condition to others’ by the AGCAS Disability Task Group.
“Deciding whether to disclose your mental health condition is a personal choice. If you do decide to disclose you may want to bear the following in mind:
- You are not alone: According to the charity Mind, approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
- Be prepared to provide information: Don’t assume the employer will understand your condition, without further information from you: Be prepared to describe your condition simply and briefly, and how it affects you. If your condition changes over time, let the employer know what affects the severity of your symptoms, either positively or negatively.
- Share what’s relevant: It is important to avoid jargon and to share information about your mental health condition that is relevant. You may find it helpful to practice saying what you are going to share so that you feel confident discussing it.
- Focus on your strengths: Don’t assume that an employer will negatively view you. As a result of your mental health condition, you have probably developed resilience, greater empathy, and the ability to meet challenges and cope with change. These are invaluable skills in the workplace. Focus on what you CAN do rather than what you struggle with, and provide examples of how your condition has not limited your achievements, academic or work performance.
- Assert your needs: Be open and tell potential employers what adjustments you may need to fulfil the role requirements.”
Talking about mental health challenges at work
I’ve also spoken to other people about their experiences of talking about their mental health challenges at work. The below statement is from Anastasia Vinnikova, Co-Chair of Bank of England’s Mental Health Network who said:
“If you have decided to open up to someone in the workplace about your mental health, I think it is important to find the right person who you are comfortable with. It may be that there is a dedicated individual or team within the organisation who looks after employee wellbeing, and they will be well placed to have those discussions. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a specialist. Perhaps there is someone in the workplace with whom you have a trusting relationship and will find it easier to open up to. However, most importantly – don’t be afraid. It shows great strength to open up about mental health challenges. It can be a scary prospect (understandably) but people can really surprise you and provide you with the support, understanding, and uplift to help you thrive.”
If you’ve experienced mental health challenges, it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a great candidate or employee than others. There is support available to help you be on a level playing field with others so you can show what you can do. If you’d like help discussing any of these points further, please don’t hesitate to book an appointment with a careers adviser. You can also visit Mind for additional support on how to manager mental health problems at work.
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