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How to talk to your boss about mental health

Talking about mental health at work.
Gosia Herba
The stakes are too high to stay silent.
  • Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Science reporter

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Any decent workplace wants to handle the mental health of its employees kindly and effectively, whether out of compassion or pure self-interest. One in four people suffer a mental disorder at some point in their life and, left unchecked, mental illness can be a huge drain on a productive workforce.

On some level, it’s obvious how to deal with mental health at work: Be supportive, take it seriously, provide accommodations. Those are good rules of thumb, but they’re banalities. Knowing how to best handle a specific situation will likely require more nuanced guidance.

Consider the conflicts for everyone involved: Employers have to balance looking after employees with respecting their privacy. Managers often have no way of determining the severity of mental illness or the level of support required. Employees, even the ones who confidently talk about mental health in the abstract, might feel more comfortable creating an excuse rather than saying they need a day off for managing their depression.

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