Should I tell my boss about my mental health?

Updated: Jan 29

It’s been a pretty rocky year, to say the least.

For some of us, our existing mental health struggles have resurfaced or worsened. While others might be experiencing mental health issues for the first time.

Whichever it is, taking care of our mental health this year has proven to be a challenge. That’s okay, no one is expecting you to be feeling great right now, so give yourself a break.

When it comes to our work and careers though, it can be difficult to know whether or not to make your mental health known to your boss. If it’s starting to affect your performance at work, it’s maybe time to start thinking seriously about raising it with the relevant people.

So, should you tell your boss you’re struggling?

Privacy and confidentiality when telling your employer

The number one thing to think about before telling your boss is your privacy. For some, they have a great relationship with their boss which means they can trust them on a personal level. For others, it’s a bit more transactional and they don’t see their boss as someone they would chat to about anything other than work.

If your mental health is qualified as a disability, you will be protected by the Equality Act. If it’s not, you should consider every possible scenario before sitting down with your boss. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go when it comes to beating the mental health stigma and some employers might not be very forthcoming or empathetic.

Another option, if your work in a larger company, is to notify the Human Resources department rather than your direct boss. The HR team don’t need to share this information with your supervisor or your colleagues, so can give you a bit more peace of mind when it comes to your privacy.

You also don’t need to share everything. The way you are feeling right now is entirely your business and you’re working through it at your own pace. When you tell your work, you can give as little or as much detail as you like but you don’t need to justify or explain yourself any more than you feel is necessary.

What to do after you’ve told your place of work

If you’ve decided that telling your boss about your mental health is the right choice for you, it’s time to start thinking about the next steps going forwards. A great way of showing your employer that you’re still committed to the job and that you want to get back on track is to have a vague plan in place.

If you need to take time off work due to stress, negotiate this with your employer and the terms of how it will happen.

If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, maybe identify your triggers and think of ways you can work around these. For example, having a slightly more flexible working pattern so you can take an extra half an hour at lunch if you need it and make up this time later. Or, starting work earlier, or later, to suit the times of the day that you feel most positive and able to concentrate.

Having these things in mind and bringing them to your employer is a great way of showing that you have things under control. However, these things need to be reasonable to your place of work and easily actionable.

If you’re still not sure what's best to do

Telling your boss about your mental health is an incredibly daunting and terrifying idea. You may feel that colleagues will treat you differently or it may hinder your opportunities in the company. All of these are valid concerns and are things you should think about in detail before deciding anything.

In an ideal world, mental health would be openly talked about without fear or stigmas. However, we’re not quite there yet.

You may ask for people’s opinions on whether or not you should say anything and get a mixed response. Ultimately, only you know what’s best for you.

If you’d like to talk to someone or ask for their advice, there are plenty of amazing free services out there. Here is a list of mental health support charities where you can get the best information and help about mental health in the workplace: