Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


November 21st, 2014

Many people with depression or another mental disorder are overwhelmed enough just dealing with their diagnosis and their focus on getting better, so it is no wonder that they do not want the added stress of having to tell family, friends, co-workers and bosses about their mental health.

Last Friday, a New York Times article, Deciding Whether to Disclose Mental Disorders to the Boss analyzed the decision that Patrick Ross, a deputy director of communications for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, made when he decided to tell his boss he had bi-polar disorder.

There is no right or wrong answer about telling your boss or others that you have a mental disorder, but if suddenly you are unreliable, your work drops off, and you no longer are the team player you used to be, then your boss will notice.

At work, you have two options: tell your boss and hope s/he will understand or do not saying anything and hope it goes unnoticed (if it isn’t too severe).

In the NY Times article, Sarah von Schrader, a senior research associate at Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute, said, “In one recent study of 600 people with disabilities, roughly half involving mental health, about a quarter of the respondents said they received negative responses to revealing their problems — such as not being promoted, being treated differently or being bullied.”

For Ross, who recently published a book on the subject, “Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road,” he said that telling his boss was more difficult than he had expected. Since he told his boss, Ross says the support from his boss has been positive and even helpful. Ross still wonders how telling might affect his overall career, though, since his job is a political appointment. Only time will tell.

The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, mental illness will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, after heart disease. Right now major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and the direct cost of depression to the United States in terms of lost time at work is estimated at 172 million days yearly.

I want to see a national dialog about mental health that helps employers to understand the importance of having an employee who is both physically and mentally well. Sadly, it is still a reality in America in 2014 that people with mental illness are somehow labeled or looked upon differently. I am proud to say that we are making strides in this country to change stereotypes like these. I only wish it could happen faster. Putting mental-health problems on an equal footing with physical illnesses will only help more people make the disclosure. In the end, all will benefit. An employee at the top of his/her game is much more productive!

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *