When Your Job Harms Your Mental Health

“If you’re really stressed out and have a mental heath issue that you’re wrestling with, it’s very difficult to think about the team more broadly,” said John Quelch, dean of the Miami Herbert Business School in Coral Gables, Fla., and co-author of the book “Compassionate Management of Mental Health in the Modern Workplace.” Even so, he added, “you have to try to get in the head of your employer.”

During the pandemic, mental health problems have been pervasive. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report concluded that in June of 2020, 40 percent of adults in the United States had been struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues.

It’s OK to be open and admit to yourself and those you trust that you’re struggling right now, said Paul Gionfriddo, the president and chief executive of Mental Health America. In fact, he added, “Most good employers are going to be asking, ‘What can I do to help you?’”

You may also decide to keep your concerns private and address them with your therapist, and that’s OK, too. Creating healthy work boundaries is vital, experts said.

“Remember that you are a worthy and valuable human being, separate from your job function, productivity and even how you might be evaluated by others,” Dr. Burnett-Zeigler said. “When feelings of self-doubt and not belonging show up, don’t lose sight of the unique talents and ideas that you bring to the workplace.”

But say your efforts to address your emotional well-being at your job have fallen flat, or the work environment has become toxic. In that case, the experts said, it’s probably best to start looking for another job, especially if you have become the target of ridicule, threats or abusive comments by a manager.

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you simply because you have a mental health condition. And according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if you have a qualifying condition like major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, you have a legal right to a reasonable accommodation that would help you do your job — for example, the ability to schedule work around therapy appointments, a quiet office space or permission to work from home.

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