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#Woohsaaaah: How to talk to your boss about mental health

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It’s like you’re the only person in slow motion. It feels like an invisible hand holding your head underwater. It’s like skydiving and your chute won’t open. It feels like you’re about to face the Boggart in the cupboard, but you have no idea what you’re about to come up against. 

‘When I’m on the edge of a panic attack, it feels like my brain is breaking. Like it’s being split into two hemispheres.’ — Anonymous 

‘You know that feeling of falling when you’re asleep? That moment of sheer panic when you jerk awake right before you realise you don’t have to be scared? It’s that. All the time.’ — Anonymous

This is what it’s like to live with a mental health condition and no one should go through this alone. Here are some steps to follow so that you can talk to your boss about your mental health. 

1    Start with the basics!

Now, loves, do not get us wrong! Telling your manager about your mental health issues is a personal choice completely! You are under no legal obligation to say a thing. Buuuuuuut, if you feel like you need some support in your work environment, being open with your boss may be the easiest way to get it. 

2    Be honest!

We’re all human, and our mood varies hour to hour, day to day – so having a conversation about mental health should be as simple and acceptable as talking about our physical health. You should never feel ashamed of your condition. It’s important to be open about what you need to improve your working conditions. You don’t even have to get into exhaustive detail, but being truthful will help you and your employer find a balance between what they need and what you’re able to do. It’s all about support!

3    Do not self-sabotage!

Legally, you cannot be discriminated against because of your mental health. The fear of talking to the big bosses is often much more daunting than the reality. Don’t worry about your job being at risk and focus on your recovery.

4    If your boss is Voldemort-esque, then to HR you need to go!

An anonymous Twitter user said, ‘I don't feel comfortable discussing my mental health with my senior manager – I don't feel like she’s open to it and doesn’t seem interested nor understanding.’ 

So she went to her HR people, who were able to provide her with more information and point her towards counselling services offered by the company.

5    Try again and again and again …

There are shifting attitudes towards mental health and we’re increasingly seeing employers make mental health support a priority in their workplace. However, there’s still a long way to go. Some people still face stigma in the workplace.

Creating a culture that takes care of people with mental health issues may not happen overnight. You’ll have to be patient, but don’t give up. Encourage your employers to carry out staff surveys to assess how the rest of the team feels about their working conditions. Promote programmes that encourage stress management at work and keep talking. Eventually, we’ll get there. 



Stay informed! Visit the SA Department of Health's website for COVID-19 updates: