Your mental health problem is a medical problem, and you have the right to keep that information private. You're not required to tell anyone else about your condition including employers and co-workers. There may be circumstances where you may need to tell your employer of your medical condition. This may be in circumstances where your employer has an absenteeism policy which requires you to provide a medical certificate for being absent for a prolonged period of time. You may choose to disclose the information to your employer if you need an accommodation (a means of removing barriers for someone with a disability so that they can work effectively). Ordinarily, even if your employer asks you directly about having a mental health problem, you are not required to disclose it.
What do I tell my employer?
Society still harbours stereotypes about people with mental illnesses, and those misconceptions and fears make their way into workplaces. Although the stigma around mental illness can take the form of well-meaning misunderstandings, it can result in discrimination and harassment. Everyone has the right to work free of discrimination and harassment. If you do decide to disclose your condition to your employer, you should ensure that they will not disclose the information to anyone else, including co-workers. Likewise, you might decide to tell a trusted co-worker but ask them not to tell your employer. In most cases, however, there is no law that prevents the employer or co-worker from disclosing the information to others in the workplace.
In any case, it's important that you think about how you want to talk about your condition. There are a range of ways to describe a mental health problem. Here are some suggested examples of language you may choose to use:-
- General terms: disability, medical condition, illness
- Vague terms: biochemical imbalance, neurological problem, brain disorder, difficulty with stress
- Specific terms: mental illness, mental health problem, mental disorder, psychiatric disorder, psychiatric disability
- Your diagnosis: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorder
If you have been open with your manager or supervisor about your diagnosis, but don't wish your co-workers to know that you have a mental illness, make this clear.
If you know that your employer and co-workers are aware that you have a health problem, you may want to talk about it with them since keeping it secret may create unnecessary anxiety to both you and your co-workers. This does not mean you have to tell them everything. Your employer and co-workers will probably be uncertain about how to talk about your condition, so let them know how you prefer to discuss it. Remember, you can choose to explain your situation at your own pace, you might first say “I have a problem with stress,” then later call it “a psychiatric disorder,” or even name the diagnosis itself if you feel it's necessary or useful to do so.
Keep in mind that others in your workplace may be going for medical treatment as well. You have the same rights as your co-workers in regard to getting treatment for your mental health problem.
How can I find the right doctor to see?
Choosing a doctor is one of the most important decisions you can make. Do you want to find a doctor with whom you feel comfortable and who you think can give you the best medical care and advice? Here are some steps to consider when choosing a doctor:
Research the doctor.
- Learn as much as you can about the doctor's background and training. Good places to go for information are Medical Associations or Medical Boards of Registration websites. If you are web-search inexperienced, get a friend or carer to help.
- Consider seeking advice from an eminent doctor (a Professor). They are usually located at hospitals, universities and major clinics. Have your current doctor write a referral and make an appointment. Usually the wait is very lengthy. Explain all your issues with the Professor and ask him to refer you to a suitable doctor. These Professors are at the top of their profession and also know many other practitioners in their field.
Make sure the doctor is right for you.
- Find out how long it takes to get an appointment. Make sure the doctor can see you within a reasonable period.
- Find out how you can reach the doctor after hours if you have an emergency. Ask if the doctor sets aside time for patients in need of urgent care or makes arrangements with other physicians to cover his patients to make sure you are seen when needed.
- Ask who will be part of your health care team. Find out what other medical staff are available to see you if the doctor is not available (such as partnership doctors or specialist nurses).
- Ask if the surgery is open in the evening or on weekends. Longer surgery hours may be more convenient for you.
- Find out what happens when the doctor is on holidays. Ask if there are other doctors who can see you if your doctor is away.
- Check to see if the doctor's office is easy to get to. Find out if you can take public transport conveniently. If you drive, check out the parking.
- Ask if you can use e-mail to contact the doctor. This can be a quick and easy way for you to ask questions or share any concerns between appointments.
Call the doctors' practice that you think would be a good fit. Say you are interested in an initial visit. Use this appointment to ask questions and find out how well the doctor listens and whether you feel at ease with him or her. Having a doctor you respect professionally and feel comfortable with personally is good for your health. So take the time to make the right choice, it is your health that is at stake.
Mental Health Stigma
Stigmatization of people with mental disorders is manifested by bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, and avoidance. Stigma leads the public to avoid people with mental disorders. It reduces access to resources and leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking, and wanting to pay for mental health care. Stigma results in outright discrimination and abuse. More tragically, it deprives people of their dignity.
A recent UK survey revealed:
- 1 in 8 people would not want to live next door to someone who has been mentally ill
- Nearly six out of ten people describe a person with a mental illness as "someone who has to be kept in a psychiatric or mental hospital"
- One third of people think that people with mental health problems should not have the same rights to a job as everyone else
- Only 31% of people think that mental hospitals are an outdated means of treating people
These findings show just how bad the situation can be for people with mental health problems. Archaic, bigoted opinions about mental illness still prevail and clearly demonstrate the urgent need for action to change people's views. It is particularly disappointing to see the deterioration in people's tolerance towards people with mental illness.
Further UK research has found that nearly nine out of 10 people with mental health problems have been affected by stigma and discrimination, with two thirds saying they have stopped doing things because of the stigma they face.