managing mental health at work: a round-up

Here’s a round-up of posts about managing mental health at work.

talking to your boss

should you tell your boss if you’re struggling with mental health issues?

should I disclose my depression to my boss?

how to talk to your boss about mental health issues

should I tell my boss I’m in therapy and on medication?

how can I get time off work for therapy?

as a manager

how should I handle joking around during mental health discussions with my team?

my employee is paranoid — can I help or is it not my business?

my employee is overwhelmingly emotionally needy

my anxious employee wants daily reassurance

how much direct mental health support should managers provide?

how to help a suicidal employee

I’m afraid to give critical feedback after two employees threatened suicide

as a coworker

my coworker is making offensive comments about suicide and depression

how patient do I need to be with a coworker with mental health issues who lashes out at me?

coworker with anxiety keeps asking us to drive her home and stay there with her

workplaces that overstep

my boss wants us to all share our mental health needs – at every meeting

my manager makes us do mental-health surveys every day

forcing employees to talk about their feelings isn’t good for our mental health

we have twice-daily mandatory group therapy at work

my boss asks us to babysit a coworker with anxiety disorder


how do I care about work when my life is falling apart?

returning to the job market after depression

what does self-care look like at work?

why I am irrationally anxious at work when I’m doing so well?

{ 30 comments… read them below }

      1. cardigarden*

        Viral post on Twitter from the Sesame Street character asking how people were doing. The people are GOING THROUGH IT and discussed it honestly and at length.

  1. Lauren*

    I’ve thought about going on short term leave to deal with my issues, but as a private company – can they reject me even with medical documentation? I assume its a slow firing process at that point once I put the target on my back, but I wonder if it is worth trying for STD leave if they will instantly say no.

    I had a boss once deny my leave for a broken leg even though I worked from home and he took my vacation time away. So I then wouldn’t let me get STD pay even though I qualified for it, but the company who would have paid needed his signature which he would not approve.

    1. Dulcinea47*

      Whether or not they have to offer FMLA depends on the size of the company, if they have 50 or more employees and you’ve been there six months, they have to let you take it. The reality is they reserve the right to treat you like crap about it when you come back and if they’re assholes like that, there’s not much you can do.

    2. BellyButton*

      “took away” I am assuming you mean he made you use your PTO for your leave. That is legal (In most states), they can require you to use up all your vacation time before going on medical leave. It is a sucky practice but a lot of companies do it. I am sorry that happened.

      As far as going on Short term disability, if they offer that, then they shouldn’t be able to deny it. If you are thinking of going on FMLA, they can’t fire you until after a certain number of days being out. I think in most states is 220 days??? I can’t remember exactly. You need to look at your benefits and look at the STD employment laws and FMLA laws in your state.

      1. Cyndi*

        It reads to me like Lauren didn’t get actual leave at all and her boss made her use PTO to work from home, which would be a very different animal.

        1. BellyButton*

          I reread it more carefully and I think you are right. If OP was working from home AND he took away her PTO, then that is illegal. If he said she had to use PTO and not work, then it is legal.

          1. Lauren*

            He gave me permission to work from home then claimed that it didn’t happen. No way I would have worked and taken PTO for it. It wiped me out and he told me months later 3 days before I was leaving for Spain and told me I was out of PTO even though the office manager remembered the truth too. So I took that Spain leave without pay and still went because no refund was possible 3 days before. I ended up defaulting on my student loans that month and it affected me for 9 years. I was 23 and didn’t realize how set back I would be for being late once, and still owing 70k. So for the life of the loan, I was defaulted until it was completely paid off even though I was current within a few months. I still hate him for that. Jerk bosses get away with things.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I am considering STD as well, I didn’t realize a company could say no as long as the company provides that benefit and there’s documentation?

      I’m okay with fallout from it, but having the option to preserve my benefits and job (at least during this period even if it puts a target on my back) while I take a break seems like my best option right now.

      1. Tio*

        They can make you use your leave first, but I don’t think they can flat out deny the STD after that.

      2. Lauren*

        This is where I am. Do I take the target and still get the payout? If not, then I should just wait it out. Private companies can say no to leave policies even if you opt in and pay the premium on it is what I learned from my past company. The STD company needs a signature and won’t push for one when it comes to it. So it depends on how much of the company believes in mental health issues to sign it so that you can get paid – otherwise unpaid FMLA just makes everyone’s mental health worse and isn’t a real break because aren’t getting paid at all.

  2. gmg22*

    Thank you for assembling this, Allison — was wondering whether some burnout-themed posts might be a useful addition as well.

    I’m still trying to work my way through some pretty significant burnout in my job and on top of that, last week I had covid for the first time. It adds up today to a very strange combo of feelings, physical fatigue + stress/shame about getting sick in the first place + fear/uncertainty re exactly what recovery will be like + guilt about not being 100% ready to “hit the ground running” now that I’m no longer acutely sick, even though I wasn’t doing anything work-related at 100% well before this if I’m honest. It’s a lot.

    1. ditto*

      Are you me? Because this is literally me, down to the covid last week. We got this. We also got slowing down and not feeling guilty about going “I don’t got this.” <3

  3. see you anon*

    I had a small victory this week in a 1:1 with my (new) manager. There’s a mental health campaign put out by a large communications company in Canada (Bell Let’s Talk Day) that is a lot of lip service, and no material action to improve mental health resources. My workplace sent out a company-wide email that amounted to “Here are some breathing exercises, and maybe go for a nice walk every now and then”.
    I know there aren’t any big changes my manager can make (everything has to go through 2-3 levels above her for policy change), but just to have someone in a position of power listen to me, and validate my feelings that a breathing exercise is an insulting solution to mental health struggles and burnout, when the real solutions are better PTO policies and better pay (we’re a non-profit, so that’s a pie in the sky dream) felt good. It was also very empowering to have both an implicit and explicit conversation, however brief, about employee (my) happiness in relation to retention.

  4. I edit everything*

    I was talking to my son last night. He’s in his middle school’s journalism class, which puts out the school newspaper. I suggested an article discussing the benefits of mental health days for students, having a therapy dog available on occasion, and other mental health measures.

    I don’t know if he’ll follow through, but getting kids used to talking about and taking care of their mental health early can only benefit them in the future.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This, really, is the key. Cultures can change if we make the slow, but determined effort.

      As an example, when I went to college in the late 1980s, it was customary to sling your backpack over one shoulder. But then a lot of doctors noticed that young people were having back issues, and they were largely caused by having a backup slung over one shoulder. (As a right-handed person, my backpack ended up over my left shoulder, and this was the usual pattern.)

      But ten years later when I was teaching, I noticed that all the kids wore their backpacks over both shoulders, and so thus avoided the back issues we had in the late 80s/early 90s. It was not due to scolding; it was not due to punishment; rather it was all due to the message of “here is a better way.”

      I sincerely hope that future generations treat mental health issues as just health issues and thus something not to be ashamed of.

  5. Introvert girl*

    We can’t bring mental health up at my job. 5 months ago one of our coworkers committed suicide. (Not my direct team, but an adjacent one). I didn’t know them well but we were all in shock. The company hushed it all up and forbid people to talk about it. Which had the opposite effect. We did talk to each other and I went to a therapist to talk about it. I lost all respect for the company after that. I still do my job and do it well, but I feel no bond, I’m just in for the check. It’s very sad as the people working there are lovely.

    1. Karma is my boyfriend*

      I’m so sorry. I used to work for a Northern Tier Air Force Base, and there were, unfortunately, many suicides. Leadership ALWAYS pushed them under the rug.

      PS we now say “died by suicide” not “committed”.

  6. Jade*

    In healthcare and I really don’t think the managers or employers care. The only mantra is SHOW UP. I find it all to be lip service and I don’t want your pizza.

  7. dobradziewczynka*

    I would love resources on how to manage grief at work. I lost my mum and feel like my life is falling apart. At times I am working while crying in my office.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I am so sorry for your loss. I recently lost a former coworker and good friend and am having feelings I never thought I would have.

      That you feel like your life is falling apart is a sign of what an anchor your mother was in your life. She gave you a strength you have yet to realize.

      It’s okay to feel what you feel. And it’s okay to cry. You’ll get through this.

      1. dobradziewczynka*

        Thank you so much and you too… you will keep going forward. I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. Your Mate in Oz*

    I work for a small company in Australia. We don’t have any DEI stuff happening formally, but have management whose attitude is very much “let’s meet you where you are”.

    When the admin/phone/office manager had a baby they set up the phone system etc so she could work from home when she was ready (we had a temp when she was actually not working). Her parental leave turned into a year of working from home most of the time (and then covid ment we all got WFH). Just as an example of “diversity means everything”. Right down to trivia like the warehouse manager working 5am-1pm because that’s the hours she prefers and she’s found ways to make it work.

    We have a few ND people in the office (R&D is full of engineers, it’s kind of expected) but they’re not “out” so I have no idea if anyone else is officially diagnosed with anything. But it all works because management do what they can to make it work. The management problems we have are the bumbling kind rather than deliberate meanness.

    TLRD: it doesn’t have to be officially organised to be effective. And you don’t need thousands of staff either.

  9. Mim*

    I will go through the linked posts, but I don’t think I saw one that (by title) addresses strategies for dealing with children or partners who are dealing with mental health issues. Which becomes a work related topic thanks to how normalized it is to ask invasively personal questions in the form of small talk, with the expectations that everyone is fine or fine with lying about being fine.

    Anyway, as distracting and difficult as it is to lie about being personally fine when forced into small talk, it’s even more difficult to have to lie about my family. Like, do you want to hear that my kid has panic attacks at least once a week because of the constant bullying in middle school? No, you don’t. Do I feel like I need to go to the bathroom and sob after having to lie about “kiddo is good, school is fine” when you bring it up in passing, expecting a positive response from me? Every freaking time. It’s exhausting to the point of affecting my ability to do my work. Like, making me question what kind of terrible parent I am that I’m here spending 1/3 of my day working for someone else when maybe I’d be able to figure out a way to fix things at home if I didn’t have to be here.

    1. basically functional*

      Virtual hugs and commiseration from an internet stranger. I am going through hard times with my kids as well and feel exactly the same way.

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