68% say their mental health is more important than their career. Here’s how to talk to your boss if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression at work.

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Right now is a difficult time for many Americans.

The pandemic, inflation and the war in Ukraine are undermining the mental health of Americans. The number of people reporting high stress has reached “alarming levels”, according to recent polls conducted for the American Psychological Association.

People recognize the importance of their mental health. A new Deloitte survey of 1,000 workers found that 68% of workers say their mental health is more important than career advancement.

“We’ve lost the sense of control, something that’s essential to living a lastingly happy life,” said Jenn Lim, workplace happiness expert and consultant and best-selling author of “Beyond Happiness.”

Many are probably wondering if they should talk to their manager about their mental health. A 2020 survey of 1,000 workers by HR and payroll company Paychex found that only 1 in 5 employees discussed their mental health with a supervisor, and only 5% said they spoke with an HR representative.

This is a problem not only on a personal level, but also on a professional level. Burnout is associated with less productivity, more absenteeism and higher employee turnover.

This article was originally published in September 2020.

How to talk about your mental health issues with your boss

Anisha Patel Dunnpsychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance Health, recommends requesting a one-on-one video chat to talk about it.

If you know what you would like to ask your boss to lighten your workload, you can say something like: “I have struggled with a lot of stress and anxiety and would like to request changes to my schedule or time off etc.”

“Be as honest and candid as possible. Many managers and supervisors experience the same emotions and/or have loved ones struggling with these issues,” the psychiatrist told Insider.

It’s also okay to talk about it if you’re not sure what you want from your boss, according to Maureen Kennedy, chief professional coach at Bravelya career coaching company.

She suggested saying something like: “I have been dealing with intense changes in my family life, and this has been a major source of anxiety for me lately. I know that I have been distracted during the work day because of this, and it’s impacting my ability to be “on” the way I need to be I’m not sure how to fix this as it’s an ongoing situation but I think it could be helpful for both of us if we spent more time on our audit-ins setting goals and prioritizing so I could know when I’m on track and when I’m falling behind.”

“Beyond Happiness” author Lim suggested framing the conversation about improving your mental health as something that would help you and your employer.

“Be honest about what you’re going through with the certainty that if you’re not at your best, you can’t do your best for them or for the company,” she said. “If this conversation doesn’t move the needle with your boss or your personal mindset, I’d ask you if this is a team or company you’d want to stay with.”

Breaking the stigma around mental health starts with leadership.

“If the manager feels comfortable, they can share an anecdote about a challenge they’re facing. It could involve parenthood, schooling, dealing with older relatives,” Patel-Dunn said.

It is also important to ask employees directly how they are feeling.

Kennedy suggests asking specific questions such as:“How’s your day going so far?” or “What is your state of mind?” or “What’s your biggest hurdle right now?”

“Don’t be afraid to ask more than once to get a more truthful answer,” she added.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or has thought about harming or killing yourself, seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides free, confidential 24/7 support for those in distress, along with best practices for professionals and resources to help with prevention and crisis situations.

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