Disclosing your diagnosis may relieve you of the feeling that you need to hide your condition. In fact, it may equip you with resources to better perform your job. On the other hand, workplace disclosure carries some risks.

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Should You Disclose Your Mental Illness to Your Employer?

May 31, 2016

If you have a mental illness, are age 18 through 64, receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI or SSI), and are considering work, this information is for you! Social Security’s Ticket to Work program provides free support to help you find and keep a job and become financially independent, to the greatest extent possible. For information, contact the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 866-833-2967 (TTY), Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask an agent to send you a list of service providers. You can also search for providers online using the “Find Help” tool. When you find a provider who meets your needs and agrees to work with you, it will help you develop a plan to reach your employment goal. Your provider will probably also talk with you about disability disclosure.

To tell or not to tell -- that is the question. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly one in five people will experience a diagnosable mental health condition like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia or have trouble dealing with some form of significant distress. Depression is one of the most widespread forms of mental illness and 70 percent of people with depression are in the workforce. Despite the prevalence, the fear of stigma and discrimination on the job remains high.  It’s no surprise that many adults struggle with the issue of disability disclosure. 

On one hand, disclosing your diagnosis may relieve you of the feeling that you need to hide your condition and, in fact, may equip you with resources to better perform your job. As a person with a disability, you are entitled to protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act and can request job accommodations, such as modified duties, job site, and work hours. Finally, disclosing your disability may create an opportunity for your employer to educate your supervisors and co-workers about your symptoms and dispel myths about mental illness.

On the other hand, workplace disclosure carries some risks. Although confidentially is guaranteed, you may determine that the possibility of your personal information getting into the wrong hands is too great to take the chance. You may worry that if you share your diagnosis with your employer or potential employer that your chances of being promoted or hired will decrease, and that supervisors and coworkers may have negative reactions and may, mistakenly, see you as less capable.  

It’s definitely a tough call! Any decision regarding disclosure of your mental health condition is your decision. If you decide to disclose, you may choose to be open with everyone or to tell only your immediate supervisor or specific co-workers. Keep in mind, there is no specific timeframe required to reveal a mental illness to an employer. Take all the time needed to determine if disclosing your condition to your employer is the right choice for you. Understand, though, if you need reasonable accommodations, your employer is not required to provide them until you disclose your condition or how it affects you.

Work can change your life!  Weigh the pros and cons of disclosure and decide what’s right for you. For more information about how Social Security’s Ticket to Work program can help you meet your employment goals, visit www.choosework.net.

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