How to talk to your employer about your mental health

30 September 2021


There’s a self-perceived stigma that can go along with an admission of mental health issues. You may fear your boss will treat you differently, question your ability to function in your job, discriminate against you, or even pass you over for promotion and a pay rise.

One in four of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives, so even if this doesn’t seem like an issue for you right now, the likelihood is that it will be something you think about over the course of your career. Thanks in part to the pandemic, organisations are now realising the importance of good mental health for all employees - and encouraging dialogue.

Here are our top tips on how to successfully broach the topic of mental health with your boss.

Schedule some time to have a private chat with your boss; it’s always best to find a less hectic moment to have this conversation. A quiet, private room where you and your boss aren't too constrained by time will make the conversation easier. If you do not feel comfortable speaking directly to your manager, you can approach your HR department first, who are trained to deal with these situations.

It can help to write down what you want to say and what you need from your employer. Practicing your conversation can play a significant role in reducing anxiety. Consider going over the conversation with a friend or a colleague, or in front of a mirror. It can also be helpful to have a note from your doctor to help explain your situation.
You don’t have to share every personal detail with your manager; instead talk in general terms about your mental health and how it’s affecting your ability to do your job. Avoid over-describing your feelings, remain professional and keep the conversation focused on work. Let your manager know what you are experiencing and try to name the feeling;  for example, “I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious...”

Come prepared with specifics around what you need. Have a list of accommodations that could make your work life easier, so you can share it with your manager. Being clear in what kind of support you need will help you to reach a solution.

Give your employer concrete examples of ways to support you and then create a plan together. For example, you may want to ask for a more flexible work schedule, longer lunch breaks to accommodate therapy appointments, a decrease in work hours, a temporary reduction in workload or even occasionally working remotely.

Whatever the case may be, know what the end goal is before you start the meeting. You can also have someone from HR involved in the discussion to provide guidance in creating reasonable solutions to your situation.

It’s also worth checking what your workplace can offer you, and use any free services to your advantage. Your employer may have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). These progams usually provides free counselling to staff, including phone counselling or face-to-face therapy. You should be able to contact your organisation’s program confidentially and directly if you need assistance.

There may also be an array of additional health and wellness resources available depending on your employer, including apps and programs to support relaxation, mindfulness, meditation and sleep, onsite or online yoga, and exercise programs.
Once you talk to your manager about your mental health concerns, they’ll likely want to follow up with you to see how things are going. Set up regular meetings or check-ins and keep your boss up-to-date. 

About the author

Paula Covey

CMO Health, Allianz Partners

Paula Covey is responsible for marketing Allianz Partners’ international health business under the Allianz Care, NextCare and Medi24 brands, as well as for helping to achieve Allianz Partners group’s ambitious plans to grow health activities and services across all of its lines of business, as Allianz Partners’ Chief Marketing Officer for Health.

Throughout her career, Paula has held a series of senior and director level global roles within marketing, market development, product development and operations.

Paula joined the company from Allianz Global Life & Health where she was Head of Global Health. She brings with her over 30 years of experience in healthcare, 20 of which were in international health.