Should You Disclose Your Mental Illness At Work?

Adrienne Radzvickas
3 min readJan 25, 2022


Photo by Christina @</a> on Unsplash

Note: This article is to give you an idea of some issues involved with disclosing your mental illness at work. It’s better if you discuss doing so with your therapist or psychiatrist first. Also, this article is based on the United States rules for accommodations for workers with disabilities. Readers from other countries need to investigate the rules in your country.

One tough decision is whether you should disclose at work that you have a mental illness. The answer that no one will like: it depends.

Three times, I disclosed my mental illness at work, with varying degrees of success. The first time, I was struggling with my technical writing job, and I naively thought that if I explained what was going on, then they would make allowances for me. It doesn’t work that way. In the U.S., you need to perform the primary functions of the job, with or without accommodations.

An accommodation is something that will help you perform the job. An example with a physical disability is a screen reader for a person with blindness. An example for a mental health disability is a desk out of the main traffic pattern for someone who is distracted easily. You can read more about accommodations at Accommodations for Employees with Psychiatric Disabilities. You will need a note from your doctor explaining your disability and what accommodations you need (therefore, disclosing your illness).

I did not ask for accommodations because I didn’t understand them. One accommodation that would have helped me would have been to get an agenda before meetings to give me time to think about the topics before the meeting. I had problems with thinking on my feet. And flexible hours would have helped because I was on a ridiculous amount of medication.

When I told my psychiatrist that I was going to disclose my illness, he said not to do that, but I did so anyway. No, they aren’t supposed to take your illness into consideration for whether you keep your job, but if you are looking for reasons that the person isn’t doing the job correctly, you will surely find them. A lot of how you do on the job has to do with “fit” and how the people feel about you.

The second time that I disclosed my illness, I was asking for an accommodation. I had a relapse of my psychotic symptoms, and my doctor wanted me to stay home while I stabilized. My doctor filled out a form, and I got the accommodation. I was on short-term disability while I was at home. I came back early because I was worried about no one doing my job. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done that. However, I wound up being laid off because of my lack of energy.

The third time, I was severely depressed and was having problems getting out of bed in the morning. I told my boss about it and lucked out because she had a daughter who had depression, so she understood how debilitating it can be. One big difference there was that my boss was happy with my work, so she was inclined to make allowances for me.

That leads me to my rule of thumb about disclosing your illness. If the people at the job are not happy with your work, disclosure probably won’t help and might hurt. If they are happy with your work, it probably is okay to disclose.

Which leads me to publishing these articles under my name. It’s possible that the people with whom I work might stumble across them sometime. But I work with the greatest people ever, so I’m feeling comfortable doing this.



Adrienne Radzvickas

Librarian interested in mental health, geekery, self-improvement, learning, and the Oxford comma