Communicating Mental Health Needs in the Workplace


Being vocal about your mental health needs is essential to living in recovery and experiencing overall wellness. To meet these needs, you must be comfortable expressing them. It may feel uncomfortable and difficult to put into words, especially depending on the people you are communicating with and the environment you are in.

One place where it is crucial to be vocal about your mental health needs is in the workplace. There was a time when discussing personal problems at work was frowned upon. Thankfully, we now live in an age where employers are trying to make mental wellness a priority for their employees. That may include providing resources, more flexible schedules, or employee assistance programs. With The Ohana, you can learn to become more vocal about your mental health needs at work and seek treatment without having to completely disconnect from work. 

How to Discuss Mental Health in General

The first step in improving your mental health is acknowledging that there are areas that need improvement. Having a mental illness or being diagnosed with a mental disorder is not a bad thing, and it is not something to be ashamed of. Sometimes you may experience concerns surrounding your mental health, and other times, loved ones may notice these concerns and bring them to your attention. 

How do you begin to discuss these concerns though? Where do you begin when trying to put complex feelings into words? Most of us struggle with these questions, but there are ways we can all become better equipped to discuss mental health.

When having a conversation about mental health, it can be helpful to inform the person you are speaking to about current challenges you are facing prior to the discussion. This may include letting them know that you want to tell them something, but you are not sure how to go about it. Let them know if you are experiencing emotions such as discomfort or embarrassment. Sometimes all you need is to vocalize these feelings. 

During these conversations, people may try to fix or resolve the problems you are facing. While this comes from a place of good intentions, this is frequently not very helpful. To avoid this, you can preface these conversations by saying that you are not looking for them to fix your problem, you are simply asking them to listen.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health is rapidly becoming an important topic of discussion in the workplace. While the hope is that employers genuinely care about their employee’s mental health, at the end of the day from a business perspective, mental health affects businesses too. 

Excessive stress may contribute to mental illness, which in turn affects job performance, engagement or communication with co-workers, productivity, and general ability to function in a role. Workplace stress is sometimes called the silent killer. The more stressed we become, the greater the toll is on our minds as well as bodies. Some experience heart attacks, strokes, develop ulcers, and experience several other health concerns because of work stress. 

In addition to these health concerns, we must be cautious of other stressors that may appear at work. High job demands, bullying, harassment, and job insecurity can add to stress. In response, your body may develop many other cardiovascular diseases, you may experience burnout and depression, and you may end up turning to substance use as a way to cope.

How to Communicate Your Needs at Work

Knowing the effects work stress can have is important, but only if you can take action and advocate for yourself. If you are suffering from addiction, are in recovery, or are on the verge of relapse because of work stress, you must put your mental health needs first. 

An important first step is deciding who to talk to. You may speak with your manager, a supervisor, or a human resources representative. Whoever that person is, you must be comfortable discussing your concerns, and they should ensure that you are talking within a safe space. Be open, honest, and express your concerns about maintaining your mental health in the workplace. Depending on your relationship with this person, you may want to be cautious of oversharing, but when all is said and done, you can work together to get back on a path to wellness.

By vocalizing your needs, your boss may offer resources such as an EAP program or different wellness benefits the company offers. They may also give you more flexibility in your schedule to do what needs to be done to improve your mental health. There is no single path to improve mental health, but each chance for extra support is a step in the right direction.

If you are struggling to communicate your mental health needs in the workplace, consider reaching out to a mental health professional immediately. They can help you better understand what you are going through and how to communicate your struggles to others at work. If work stress has led to addiction or substance use disorders, reach out to The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center. Our executive treatment program can help you find a balance between work and recovery, and put you on a path to better health today.

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