Can you talk about your mental health to your boss? -BBC

When web developer Madalyn Parker took time off work to focus on her mental health, the supportive response of her CEO won much praise.

But not everyone can count on their employers’ understanding and many people feel unable to be open at work about their mental health.

The BBC asked for your experiences of mental health and the workplace.

Some people shared stories of colleagues showing sensitivity, while others described reactions of incomprehension.

“In some ways, I felt it was harder to talk about my own mental health at work because I am looking after other people with mental health difficulties. It was hard to admit that things weren’t quite what they should be.

“Twelve years ago my best friend killed himself. He was the reason I had wanted to be a nurse. At the time I just shut it away and it was I was about to qualify as a nurse. I sort of grieved but I didn’t deal with the guilt and things around it.

But then just a year ago, it hit me.

“I started anti-depressants and counseling, both of which I still continue to take now. I told one of my colleagues but found it really difficult to talk to my managers.

“It was through work that I found my counselor and they allowed me to take some time off. But I felt like I should get back to work and look after everyone else. I feel like that’s the culture.

“Although they were saying the right things when I returned to work, sometimes I didn’t feel like they were totally supportive.

“The last blip I had was at the end of February and I took a week off. But then you feel guilty about being away from work and that you’ll have more work to come back to.

“I try now to actually leave work on time. I try not to look at emails on weekends and to switch off from work. I’ve learned to take better care of myself and put myself first sometimes.”

“I suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The most innocent comments can be debilitating for someone suffering from those conditions.

“We generally appear confident and happy and people don’t understand how to approach us like it’s a taboo subject. Saying things like “cheer up” or “we want the old happy person back” or “she was jubilant last week so we don’t believe she can be unwell this week” are incredibly hurtful.

“My firm knew about my anxiety but they weren’t very approachable about it. To begin with they were very supportive. They were flexible and allowed me to change my hours.

However, I still had to bill a certain number of hours so I had more work to do in the time I was there. They did not quite understand the pressure they put on me and I left my workplace in April because of the anxiety.

“But I sought to turn a negative into a positive and I’ve now set up on my own as an employment law consultant.

“I’m very open about my mental health as I want to give my clients the same confidence. But I have the benefit of knowing the law and my rights. I work with Mind and Workplace Leeds on a pro bono basis to help people in difficult situations with their employer.

“I think employers should encourage mental health days off and have a mental health first aider. There is such a stigma – especially in the legal sector – as we are perceived as weak. It could not be further from the truth.

“People need educating as the ignorance is damaging so many people’s mental health further. It is getting better but there is so much more that can be done.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. I have always been completely transparent with my employers about my mental health, as I know it’s better if we work together and have an action plan should I relapse.

“My previous employer was dreadful about my mental health. I thought it best to be honest and I disclosed all of my medical histories. After I was hired I sent them all my health documents as requested – I have a heart condition as well as bipolar disorder.

“At an assessment day before I was due to start training, I was pretty much told I would be unable to work due to my mental health condition and was compared to a mass murderer who was reported to have had mental health issues.

“They eventually took me on but it got to the point where I felt it was constructive dismissal.

“I now work for an airline who are aware of my mental health condition and are supportive of me. They are so much better.

“Their doctor sat down with me and asked me about my condition, what caused relapses, how I managed it. They reassured me that if I relapsed then I would be supported and still have a job. I feel able to go to them with anything.

“I know lots of people who are scared to disclose their mental health issues to their employer in case they are treated similarly to what I went through.

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