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When caregiving impacts your mental health: 5 tips for talking to your employer

Boss looks at employee with concern as they talk

Caregiving is hard work. If you’ve found yourself in a spot where it’s impacting your mental health and your other job(s), it might be time to talk to your employer. While bringing up your emotional well-being may feel uncomfortable, the benefits can outweigh the awkwardness. Here are tips to help you get through the conversation.

Think about why you’re sharing.

Everyone has different reasons for opening up about what they’re dealing with at home. It also depends on who you’re talking to and your relationship with them. Sharing with a close work friend will likely feel different than talking to your manager, which will likely feel different than sharing with someone in human resources (HR). Maybe right now you just want to let your supervisor know what’s going on in the rest of your life in case an emergency comes up. Or perhaps you notice changes in your job performance or focus. Do you want a listening ear or help problem-solving?

Know what you want to disclose before you start the conversation.

Talking to your supervisor or HR about your mental health can be scary, and it can feel even more intense when you’re sharing the personal reasons you’re struggling. Think about what you want to say ahead of time and how much information you’re comfortable sharing. This can reduce your anxiety about how the conversation will go. Remember that you don’t need to tell your employer everything about a situation for them to understand that something in your personal life is affecting you in other areas.

Think about what would help.

Being a caregiver can often have you focused on everyone else, but what do you need during this time? Think back to why you’re sharing. Sometimes, just knowing there’s someone you can go to for a supportive conversation is enough. You might also need more specific support, like time off, a flexible schedule, or a workload change. You’re entitled to workplace accommodations, such as changes to your schedule or a more private work area. Your employer may also offer other supports for mental health conditions or provide an employee assistance program (EAP) to connect you with a short-term mental health provider.

Know your rights and options.

As an employee, you’re entitled to certain rights related to mental health conditions, including the right to privacy and reasonable accommodations. If you have access to FMLA leave (also known as family and medical leave), you’re allowed to use that to care for a spouse, child, or parent. You may also be able to use paid time off (PTO). Depending on your employer, you may also have access to short-term disability benefits that can cover some of your salary if you need to take an extended amount of time off for your mental health. Also know that you can report if you believe you’ve been discriminated against because of a mental health condition.

Provide resources.

Unfortunately, not many people – even employers – know the strain that comes with caregiving and/or mental health struggles if they have never experienced it. Know that you might have to provide information to your employer to help them better understand what you’re going through and how to support you. MHA’s workplace resource page has materials for both employers and employees on supporting mental health at work.

Get more caregiving resources

Our caregiver guide has resources for people who care for someone who has been recently diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Take a mental health test

Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.