Mental Health Discrimination in the Workplace

Although the landscape of mental health in the workplace is evolving, many employees still find themselves facing mental health discrimination. This form of discrimination can be very subtle, undermining a person's professional life, mental health, finances, and overall well-being. If you believe you may be experiencing mental health discrimination at work, read on for help recognizing this form of discrimination and knowing your rights.

What Mental Health Discrimination Looks Like

Mental health discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, some overt and others more subtle, but all can significantly impact an individual's professional life and mental well-being. Understanding what this discrimination looks like is the first step toward addressing and combating it.

Recognizing these behaviors and scenarios is crucial for both employees and employers. By identifying and understanding the various manifestations of mental health discrimination, individuals and organizations can take informed steps to address and prevent such behaviors, fostering a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment.

To Disclose or not to Disclose?

Many people with mental health conditions wonder if it’s better to conceal them at work, or disclose them to their supervisors. This is a significant decision that can have positive and negative impacts. Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Advantages of Disclosing a Mental Health Condition at Work:

Access to Accommodations

Disclosing your condition can qualify you for reasonable accommodations under laws like the ADA, helping you perform your job effectively despite your mental health challenges.

Example: Adjusting your work schedule to accommodate therapy sessions or allowing for a quieter workspace.

Support System 

Being open about your condition can foster understanding and support from colleagues and supervisors, creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

Example: Colleagues might be more considerate or understanding of your needs or fluctuations in performance related to your condition.


Disclosing allows you to be more authentic at work, reducing the stress of hiding your condition and potentially improving your mental well-being.

Example: Feeling more relaxed and less anxious at work, knowing you don't have to conceal a significant part of your life.

Advocacy and Awareness 

Your disclosure can contribute to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health, serving as an advocacy tool for yourself and others in the workplace.

Example: Encouraging others to speak up and seek help, fostering a culture of openness and mental health awareness.

Disadvantages of Disclosing a Mental Health Condition at Work:

Potential Stigma 

Despite growing awareness, stigma around mental health persists. Disclosing your condition might lead to misconceptions or negative biases from coworkers or management.

Example: Colleagues might treat you differently or question your capabilities based on their misconceptions about mental health.

Privacy Concerns 

Once disclosed, your personal health information might not be as private as you'd like, depending on workplace dynamics and confidentiality practices.

Example: Information about your condition could inadvertently be shared beyond the intended audience, leading to unwanted attention or gossip.

Career Impact

There's a risk that disclosure could influence perceptions of your suitability for promotions, projects, or leadership roles, regardless of your actual performance or capability.

Example: Being overlooked for a promotion due to biases or misconceptions about your ability to handle increased responsibilities.

Risk of Discrimination 

While illegal, discrimination based on mental health conditions can still occur, affecting your job security and work relationships.

Example: Experiencing subtle changes in how you're treated at work, from the assignments you receive to the opportunities offered to you.

Weighing these pros and cons can help you make an informed decision about disclosing your mental health condition at work, considering your personal circumstances, workplace culture, and the potential impact on your professional life.

Understanding Your Rights

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for employees with disabilities, including mental health conditions. These laws ensure that individuals with mental health conditions receive reasonable accommodations and are protected against unjust treatment. Understanding these rights can empower employees to advocate for themselves in the workplace. For more information about the ADA, which employers and employees are covered, and what “reasonable accommodations” entails, check out the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) website here.

How to Respond to Mental Health Discrimination

Document, Document, Document

First and foremost, it's important to document all incidents. Make sure to note dates, times, what was said, and people present. If emails or direct messages were exchanged, print and save them. 

Approach HR

Once you have documented a couple of incidents, approach Human Resources (HR) with the evidence. A good HR department will seek to resolve these conflicts before they negatively impact the company, so they will likely provide guidance and facilitate necessary interventions. Keep in mind, however, that HR’s core purpose is to protect the company. Be sure to document all of your interactions with HR. Ask them if you may record meetings.If the HR is unhelpful, or if the discrimination continues, you’ll be able to prove that you attempted to follow the appropriate channels and the company failed to protect you. 

File a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC

If you believe you're facing mental health discrimination at work, take a look at the EEOC's list of resources on mental health conditions. In addition to summarizing the applicable laws, it provides steps and links for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or with the state or local Fair Employment Practice Agency in your area. The EEOC advises that there are strict time limits for filing a discrimination charge, so you should contact them as soon as possible. Their services are free, and you do not need a lawyer to file a charge. If you have the means and would like more guidance and a personal advocate, you can choose to seek legal counsel from an attorney well-versed in employment law and discrimination. 

Get Support for Your Mental Health

If you’re not already getting professional support for your mental health, consider finding a mental health provider to guide you through this challenging time. At Medens Health, our trained therapists can help you manage the stress of workplace discrimination while addressing your underlying mental health condition. Reach out today and get the support you need!

If you struggle with mental health at work, Medens Health can help! Call or text (833) 624-5400, fill out our contact form, or get started here.


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information this blog provides is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.