Amazon’s ‘Modern Love’: Should You Tell an Employer About Mental Illness?

In episode three of Amazon’s ‘Modern Love,’ we see the story of Lexi, a young woman who is struggling with mental illness. Lexi (Anne Hathaway) has bipolar disorder, but she tries to hide it from her employer and the men she dates. Consequently, she tends to lose jobs and boyfriends.

Should you tell an employer about a mental illness? If so, when should you disclose? Showbiz Cheat Sheet spoke with mental health experts to learn more about how to navigate mental health in the workplace.

Consider the climate at work

Anne Hathaway attends the Amazon Prime Video "Modern Love" premiere reception |  ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
Anne Hathaway attends the Amazon Prime Video “Modern Love” premiere reception | ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Think about your work environment. Is this an employer who will be understanding if you disclose your mental health status? Trudi Griffin, a licensed professional counselor, says it’s important to consider your work environment before deciding whether to disclose:

Several things to consider before letting your employer know about a mental illness include evaluating the cultural climate at work. Is the general atmosphere supportive of people or not so much? Do your colleagues and superiors treat people with compassion or not? Second is what you hope to gain from disclosure. Are you looking for accommodations? Time off? Changes to the way you work? Can those accommodations be requested without disclosing your mental health issue?

Tell your employer about a mental illness if it will affect your work performance

Laura MacLeod, a therapist and human resources expert, suggests disclosing a mental illness if you know your work performance will be negatively impacted. You don’t want to lose your job because you failed to communicate. It’s better to be open about what’s going on so your supervisor can understand what is happening. In “Modern Love,” Lexi’s co-worker asked her why she didn’t disclose earlier. It’s possible Lexi could have saved her job and received compassion from her manager if they understood why she was absent so frequently. Here’s what MacLeod said about sharing a mental health diagnosis:

If your work performance will be affected and/or your day-to-day behavior will need to be adjusted–then yes. You’ll need to disclose something to your employer. For example, if you need to take frequent breaks or specific resources (beyond what other workers have).

If your mental health doesn’t affect work performance, you might be able to keep it to yourself

If you’re able to function well and your work performance is not affected by your mental health diagnosis, you might be able to keep this information to yourself. MacLeod suggests not bringing up the issue if you can avoid it. “Bottom line here: Does your mental health diagnosis effect the way you work? If it doesn’t, then, no. Employers don’t want or need to know this personal info. Boundaries become blurry once you disclose something so personal.”

Put your best foot forward at work every day

Remember you still have a job to perform. Erica Wiles, a licensed professional counselor and writer for CompareLifeInsurance.com, says it’s important to keep your performance up. Although your diagnosis might affect you at work, don’t rely too heavily on this as an excuse to slack off:

If disclosing is the best option, it is not an excuse to underperform or to use a mental health diagnosis to fail to do the job (e.g. chronically running late, habitually taking days off, not completing tasks, etc.). However, disclosing can allow for employer leniency if/when situations arise where a mental illness could potentially impact job attendance or performance. 

Read more: Amazon’s ‘Modern Love’: At What Point in a Relationship Should You Reveal Mental Illness?

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