Everyone dreads going into work sometimes. But for those with a mental health disorder, that feeling is more than just a run-of-the-mill case of “the Mondays.”
Mental illness affects nearly one in five American adults in a given year. It brings about physical and emotional symptoms, none of which just disappear as soon as an individual steps through that office front door.
But having a mental health issue doesn’t make a person inept at his or her job. In fact, work may even help them manage their illness. Yet the stigma that mental illness is some sort of flaw still exists ― and that misconception (or the fear of it) could carry over into the workplace.
Below are just a few things those with mental health conditions wish their employers understood. Here’s what it’s really like to work with a mental health disorder:
1. Even just coming into the office is a giant feat.
Mental health conditions can completely wreck a person’s sense of motivation. The conditions also bring about lethargy or sleep disturbances which can mess with a person’s energy. Often getting out of bed is tough ― but making it to work? That’s monumental.
2. Productivity can suffer if they’re not supported.
That lack of motivation can also extend into a person’s ability to complete tasks once they arrive at the office. Mental health issues like depression cost 200 million lost workdays per year in the United States at and $17 to $44 billion dollars in lost productivity. That’s why encouragement, understanding and support are vital. It doesn’t just help the employee, but the employer as well.
3. They’re afraid of being held back if they reveal their illness.
Of course, it’s up to the individual whether or not they want to disclose any health condition. However, there’s a lot of hesitation with mental illness. Because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, people often stay silent about their condition for fear of being punished professionally.
4. There should be mental health resources at work.
Employee assistance programs are effective in helping employees manage psychological wellbeing in the workplace, according to the CDC. But that’s just the beginning: Experts agree that more needs to be done, such as seminars and manager trainings on mental health, to promote a healthy mind and create a more accepting atmosphere at the office.
5. Sometimes therapy will conflict with work schedules.
Therapy is one of the most effective ways to manage a mental health disorder and it’s crucial that an individuals follow their treatment plan outlined by a medical professional. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that therapy appointments may conflict with work engagements or even may need to happen during lunch breaks. That’s yet again why more accepting work atmospheres can be critical.
6. Sick days take on a different meaning.
Common colds aren’t the only catalysts for sick days. Sometimes people with mental health conditions experience physical symptoms (think panic attacks, headaches, stomach pain) that can feel debilitating. Couple that with emotional symptoms and it’s no wonder someone with a mental health challenge might need a day off.
7. Mental health terms are not a joke.
The way we collectively talk about mental health matters. Using mental illness expressions as a casual, colloquial phrases can be stigmatizing: Stress at work does not necessarily mean someone is “having a panic attack.” Someone’s sad mood or reaction to an upsetting event is not an indication of “depression.”
8. Mental illness is just as important as physical illness.
Companies or managers wouldn’t fire, punish or even silently judge an employee for being diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment. Experts argue that more workplaces need to view the body as inclusive of the brain when it comes to prioritizing the health of their employees. That means mental illness should be extended the same sensitivity and support as physical illness.
9. Your support means the world.
Recognizing and validating an employee’s psychological condition or wellbeing can do wonders, according to Matthew Shaw, a former journalist and a visiting fellow at the University of Michigan Depression Center.
“It sounds really obvious, but senior employees being invested in someone’s mental health is really beneficial,” Shaw previously told HuffPost. “Top level visibility on these issues, like emails and conversations from managers, is a transformative thing.”
Offering your understanding or support for someone dealing with a mental health issue? That’s “Boss Of The Year” material.