Mental Illness in the Workplace

It is estimated that one in five Americans may suffer from some sort of mental illness. A mental illness may not be something you are aware of in a co-worker or that is obvious from outward appearances. Most people who suffer from a mental illness do not disclose the information to co-workers in order to avoid the stigma that often goes with mental illness.

Chances are your employer may know who suffers from a mental illness in the office. Employers are obligated to hire someone with a known mental illness unless they are thought to be a specific threat to themselves, others around them, or the illness renders them incompetent to complete work.

As an employer, it is possible you will not know who has a mental illness and who does not. You want to avoid any discomfort in future employees by addressing this head on, but in a professional and confidential manner.

Let new employees know about mental health coverage that is offered in the company’s insurance policy, without the employee having to ask. Do not be afraid to hire someone with a known mental illness, as it is a myth that every mental illness will lead to a hostage situation or the breakdown of your company. Instead, each employee should be monitored the same. Just because an employee does not have a known mental illness when they begin working for you does not mean that he or she won’t develop one.

Watch for a decline in work or a drastic change in the standard of work completed. These can be signs that something is wrong. Do not be afraid to address the issue, but be kind. Ask if there is something going on that needs to be addressed to remedy the problem, and try to aid in finding an answer. If all else fails, you may suggest to the employee, in confidentiality, that you feel something is wrong and perhaps they should seek help.

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