As the pandemic drags on and the Great Resignation continues, more and more people are realizing the importance of mental health at work. But actually having a conversation about your mental health in the workplace can still be pretty nervewracking.
However, some of us have had less-than-ideal outcomes from talking about our mental health in the past, so we may be feeling anxious about opening up. Or perhaps we grew up in a world that told us that we should never, ever talk about this stuff at work, so we don't even really know where to start.
1.Do know your purpose for having a mental health conversation at work. Understanding your "why" and what you hope to get out of the conversation will help you keep the chat on track.
"Sharing about mental health should be done with purpose, not just sharing just to share," says Doman. "Sharing about mental health at work is great, but what's most important (aside from shifting the overall narrative) is encouraging people to take action to manage their mental health — and not to feel guilty or fearful of doing that."
2.Don't assume that you need to have a mental health diagnosis to bring up what you're going through at work. Your feelings are valid, and so are your needs.
And Doman says that pandemic stress is another big reason why more and more people are initiating mental health conversations at work.
3.Do look for signs that your workplace is open to conversations around mental health.
4.But don't ignore red flags that your workplace may not be a safe space for these conversations.
5.Do answer these questions for yourself before putting time on the calendar to talk.
"Once you have clear answers on these questions, you can set yourself for sharing with intention, clarity, and purpose — as opposed to feeling like you need to share and aren't sure how to help that conversation take shape."
6.Do state your intentions at the beginning of the conversation to make it really clear what you need out of this talk.
7.Don't worry that you'll have to share every little detail about what you're going through. If you make the decision to talk about your mental health, you only have to share what needs to be said.
"It's about sharing as much as needed, and ultimately deciding where that conversation should sit, and who would be best suited to help someone in need of assistance."
8.And if you have any fears or concerns going into the conversation, do be up front about those feelings as well.
"Having a fear of being judged for a mental health disclosure at work is very valid. Our history as a species, and even now, continues to give us countless reasons to be afraid to share about something totally normal. We all have mental health, and countless people have mental illness, and yet — there is the continued fear of being othered."
9.Do be prepared to educate the person you're talking to about your condition if they aren't familiar.
10.And don't think any misunderstandings or feelings of awkwardness automatically mean that the conversation isn't going to be productive.
11.Do set expectations for any "next steps" that should follow after you've opened up.
12.If you face discrimination or repercussions for opening up about your mental health, do know your rights.
13.And finally, if a coworker opens up to you about their mental health, do keep an open mind and be a safe person for them to talk to.
"Respect that person's confidentiality (unless it's an emergency), ask the type of help that they want (i.e., do they want you to just listen or to help sort through things), and don't get distracted! Give the conversation the attention and space it deserves. Be clear on next steps (if there are any)."
"Sharing about mental health at work can be an uphill battle, don't make that person regret the climb. Follow their lead and their vibe — they'll set the tone if you listen. If you're unavailable at that time, make sure they know the conversation is important to you and take action to schedule some time to speak," Doman says.
Do you talk about your mental health at work? Why or why not? Share your experiences in the comments.