How to Talk to Your Boss About Your Mental Health

Support yourself on a journey toward better mental health. Having a conversation with your boss could be the the relief you need.

 Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Sometimes it’s more than just a case of the Monday blues, or a week-long flu. At some point in our career, we may feel the need to talk our health over with our boss – especially our mental health.

The State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia by headsup.org states that 91% of Australians believe mental health in the workplace is important. And rightfully so, as 45% of Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with one in five of the population, every year, suffering from symptoms of mental illness – most commonly Depression and Anxiety.

Talking about our mental health may be something that you naturally associate with friends and family – so disclosing your feelings to your boss may feel new and might also be daunting. As workplace wellness has come to be more commonplace within businesses, we must remind ourselves (and those around us)that our thoughts, and feelings are completely valid – especially in the workplace. Our mind is our greatest asset, and without it’s clarity, we feel like we are left in the dark.

But how do we talk about all of this with our boss? Here’s some pointers, to get the conversation started;

  1. Understand where you are at; Mental health issues are delicate and disclosing them to your boss is a very personal decision. If you’re getting by OK within your job, and your work isn’t suffering – then you may or may not choose not to disclose this to your boss. However, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, and you feel that your mental health is starting to interfere with work, choosing to disclose may be the best thing for you. Everyone’s situation is unique, and there is no right or wrong decision about disclosure. You’re the only person that truly understands where you’re at.
  2. Think of the situation in terms of physical health; Asking for a day off work, or some leniency because of your physical health is commonplace in our workplace. Think about your mental health in the same way. How would you approach it in this case? And are we only adding to the stigma if we approach it differently? If you feel like your boss may not be open to your health issues, try the conversation from this angle; “I would love to speak with you about a health issue, as I have been considering that it may be impacting my work.”
  3. Choose how much to disclose; We spend a lot of time within our minds, so we know all the ins-and-outs of how we feel. But this doesn’t mean we need to explain everything to our boss. Stick to the facts, and remember you are not obliged to list the specifics of your health condition. Don’t be disheartened if your boss is only focused on physical output – and assumes that you’re doing fine. Remember, this is all about acknowledging that your input, mentally, doesn’t feel right or might not be at its peak, and that having this conversation is helping your overall output.
  4. You are not alone; It’s likely that you are not the first person to come to your boss with a mental health issue. Remember:you are not alone. Mental health only has a face if we talk about it, and you might be surprised that your boss is more receptive than you think. Even if this is a new conversation for your boss, you could be helping to path the path for future colleagues. And that’s an honourable and courageous thing to do.

At the end of the day, bringing yourself relief through talking with your boss only but betters your own unique situation. With an understanding boss, this puts everyone in a win-win situation. Not being functional at work creates a cost to individuals, business, the economy –– and importantly, our career which we have worked so hard to achieve.

When mental health is valued by leaders, there are real benefits to all. A great boss should understand this.


If you need further support on how to cope with this mental health issues in workplace situations, we recommendheadsup.org(link: http://headsup.org), who have a selection of resources for employees, employers, and business owners. If you feel you need to talk to somebody one-on-one about your mental health, Health Direct(link: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-helplines) offer a selection of helplines, available to all Australians.