Should I tell my co-workers about my disability?

Deciding whether or not to tell your employer and co-workers about your mental illness is a personal decision. You decide whether telling others will help you or hurt you. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I need an accommodation to do my job?
  • Will an accommodation keep me from being disciplined or fired?
  • Do I need an accommodation to stay in good health?
  • Can changes be made in my work environment without me having to disclose my disability?
  • Will the information stay confidential?
  • Will other employees, including my supervisor, harass me or discriminate against me if I let them know about my mental illness?
  • Do I want to risk losing privacy by telling people about my personal problems?
  • Will an accommodation make my job more successful and rewarding?

If you have been out of work for a long time, you may feel like you have to disclose your mental illness to explain why you’ve been out of work. Think carefully about this, because if you volunteer information about a disability, before being offered a job, the ADA may not protect you.

Remember that people are out of work for all kind of reasons not related to mental illness. If you feel you must explain long periods of unemployment, you don’t have to talk about your personal health history. Don’t lie, but don’t feel like you have to give specific details. Other people have gaps in their work history. They stayed at home to raise children, care for a sick relative, write books, and start businesses. Some people have been laid off and haven’t been able to find a job that matches their skills. If you decide to disclose your illness, you don’t have to give any details. You can simply say, "I was recovering from an illness, but I am well now and ready to go back to work."