Advocating for Yourself in a Professional Setting

Advocating for Yourself in a Professional Setting
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A person who has never struggled with mental health issues may accidentally cause you discomfort, stress, or could possibly trigger you to spiral due to ignorance or prejudice. While mental health has become more of a public issue as researchers discover more about treatment options and potential causes, mental health is still not valued the same as a person’s physical health.

When someone is physically unwell, often there is obvious evidence that proves the person is ill or sick. However, mental illness is not usually something that a person can see and the possible signs that you may experience as symptoms of your mental illness can be unclear to someone who is ignorant about mental health issues.

If you encounter someone who has no experience with mental health issues, they might not know how to identify the signs of someone in discomfort or distress. You may come across people who are ignorant about mental health in the workplace or even with close friends or family. Advocating for your mental health can help educate people on mental health issues and communicate your mental health needs.

Discrimination in the Work Place

In general, advocating for a person’s needs in the workplace can be complicated. Everyone’s workplace may present different power dynamics depending on your supervisor, co-workers, and employer. Employers value productivity and when you can’t deliver that productivity due to mental health issues you might be afraid of falling behind. If you work for a larger corporation, it is possible that they might have some programs or resources for people struggling with mental health issues. These programs might give you a space to talk about your struggles or even help you pay or get connected with a mental health professional.

Talk with a trusted supervisor or co-worker to see what services your company may have to offer. Making your supervisor aware of your mental health issues will give him or her an opportunity to potentially make accommodations and also be able to prepare for a situation when your mental health might hinder the quality or quantity of your work. Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, this conversation may be a delicate one. If you aren’t sure what to say, ask your therapist, counselor, or mental health professional for tips on how to talk with your employer about your condition.

It’s likely that you aren’t the only person at your workplace struggling with mental health issues. Opening a conversation about mental health might help people be more understanding and possibly lend support to someone else who is also struggling with his or her mental health. If your discomfort in the workplace is caused by a specific person, try talking to them and explaining how he or she is making you uncomfortable. It’s possible that the person doesn’t know that they are triggering you or causing you any stress and, more often than not, will take steps to correct their behavior if asked.

Communicating With Your Family and Friends

Every family has a different view on mental health issues. Some families embrace mental health treatment while others may have a “get over it” type of attitude. Advocating for your mental health needs is important even in families that embrace treatment. People might have different opinions about what treatment options are best for you. However, no one understands your mental health better than you so remember that you can listen to their advice but you do not have to take it if it doesn’t seem relevant or appropriate.

Your mental illness could have affected your friends and family and they might want to discuss or ask questions about an unpleasant event or incident. However, you don’t have to discuss anything that you are not ready to, especially if the event may be triggering for you. Tell the person you are not ready to talk about the incident and give a brief explanation why. If appropriate, set a date when you believe you will be comfortable talking about the subject and, if the person is really concerned or upset, you can suggest setting up an appointment with your therapist or counselor so that you can discuss the sensitive subject in a safe environment.

Advocating your mental health needs to family or friends who don’t believe in mental health treatment will be more difficult. Have a discussion with friends or family members who might disapprove of treatment. Remind them of what you were like before treatment and how much better you’ve been doing since you’ve started. You might not be able to convince them that this is the best option for you, but they might have a better understanding of your decision and accept that you aren’t going to be stopping treatment any time soon.

Knowing When to Leave

Not everyone will be supportive of your mental health needs even after you explain your situation and ask for their support. When this happens you might have to physically remove yourself from the environment, either temporarily or permanently. This might mean leaving a work event early, asking to be assigned to work with someone else on a project, or leaving your job entirely. This could also mean talking to a person less or possibly ending a relationship with them altogether.

Being able to advocate for your mental health needs may take some practice. Work with your therapist or mental health professional to help you navigate relationships both in the workplace and with your friends and family. There may be some difficult conversations that require putting up boundaries or explaining personal triggers.

Shoreline Recovery Center offers several different types of therapies including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy to help you navigate your personal and professional relationships. Our mental health professionals will also work closely with you to help you manage your mental health symptoms and communicate your needs to others. We also believe in building a community that you can rely on for support, which is why we encourage our patients to attend the social events and activities that we offer. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, please call (866) 278-8495 to learn more about our programs.

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