Mental health in the workplace from an employee's perspective

  • Date posted

    May 27, 2021

  • Guest post by

    Annie French, Navigate customer service representative

After a once-in-a-generation crisis, we're seeing a renewed dedication to providing mental health resources. And employees want to work for companies that support mental health:


of workers indicated that companies should be doing more to protect workers’ mental health.


said that the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.


said that work-related stress is affecting their home

But even though the pandemic has created an immediate need for mental health resources, it isn’t the only reason for employers to offer support. As Melissa Frieswick, Chief Commercial Officer of Total Brain, put it, “There was a national mental health crisis well before the pandemic ever came.”

This statement—made during Navigate’s most recent Speaker Series—resonated with me for personal reasons. I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 shortly after my daughter was born in 2009. I haven’t been quick to share my diagnosis and experience due to the stigma many people still attach to it. But the only way to break a stigma is to raise awareness, whether it’s through a speaker series or elsewhere, so others can start to understand.

Here were a few other things mentioned during the Speaker Series that jumped out to me:

Managers are incredibly important when it comes to employee mental health. They are often on the front lines of these conversations surrounding burnout, stress, etc. However, how many managers are thoroughly trained on how to address these conversations?

Will my boss think I can’t do my job if they know the truth? What if I get let go? Those are the questions that may arise for those who struggle with any mental health disorder.

Unfortunately, I can’t say it is always the right choice to disclose your disorder. I’ve had both positive and negative experiences in the past—telling your employer is a personal decision and should be decided carefully. For years, I contemplated whether to disclose my diagnoses to my employers. When I finally revealed it to a former employer, I was laid off a month later.

On the other side, I am so grateful that Navigate has been nothing but supportive and understanding after I decided to tell them about my diagnosis. Knowing that I am not alone and that I don’t have to hide it from my employer helps me cope during the tough times.

If you’re struggling with a mental disorder and wonder whether you should disclose it to your employer, ask a trusted therapist or another medical professional for their advice.

Make it clear to your employees that they don’t need a mental health disorder to take care of their mental health. Go beyond highlighting depression and anxiety to promote an open dialogue about preventative methods.

Stress, depression, and anxiety aren’t the only form of mental disorders. They are obviously important to highlight, but to reduce stigma, it’s also important to support and understand other diagnoses. For instance, bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million adult Americans, about 2.6% of the US population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAML)—but how many people know how to best work with someone suffering from a bipolar disorder?

For myself, there are many difficult things I may have to deal with day to day. Beyond the worry of an extreme episode, I wake up every morning not knowing if I’ll be exuberant and ready to take on the world, or so depressed that a dark cloud follows me around all day. Having the ability to work from home and the support to reveal my illness to my employer has helped alleviate my stress.

It’s important to mention that others may have a different experience, as symptoms vary from person to person.

Many people only focus on caring for their brains AFTER their mental health is already crumbling. Science shows that even simple things like joyful movement or taking a deep breath BEFORE disaster strikes can help encourage a happier, more productive life.

We all need stress relievers during the workday. Beyond diagnosable disorders, one way a company’s leadership and managers can support mental health is by understanding the need for short breaks. I’m a better employee when I have the freedom to take a brief break from my computer and go for a short walk, play with my pets, make a cup of tea, or clean my house, just to clear my head. Whatever your employees need to relieve stress and remain productive during the day, make sure you allow time for it.

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