Working while you have a Mental Health Condition

Everyone’s mental health varies during their life. Mental health exists on a broad continuum or range, from positive healthy functioning at one end, through to severe symptoms or conditions that impact on everyday life and activities at the other. Your mental health is not fixed or static but moves back and forth on your own personal range in response to different stressors.

When someone has a mental health condition, it can impact on how they think, feel and behave. It may also impact on their physical health. Many people manage their mental health condition well and without it affecting their work or life.

Mental health conditions can range from mild, lasting only a few weeks, to moderate and severe, impacting on all areas of a person’s ability to function day to day.

Working while you have a mental health condition provides several benefits, and can play an important role in your recovery. Work can:

  • improve your quality of life and wellbeing
  • give structure and routine to your day-to-day life
  • contribute to your sense of meaning and purpose
  • promote opportunities for social inclusion and support
  • provide financial security.

Depending on your circumstances, certain factors can make it difficult for you to stay at work, or return to work after an absence. These may include:

  • reduced self-confidence because of your mental health condition
  • being worried that workmates may find out about your condition without your permission
  • the stigma associated with mental health conditions, and fear of discrimination
  • uncertainty about the help available to you
  • concerns that workplace stressors have not been addressed.

If you have had to time off, there may also be a loss of connection with work and colleagues. It is important to consult with your managers or HR team to make the process smooth and simple.

If you can keep working, it can help to:

  • set up regular meetings with your manager to define realistic goals and provide regular updates to them on how you are going;
  • meet regularly with a trusted support person to discuss how you’re doing;
  • ask for adjustments to your role where necessary, such as flexible hours if you need time off for appointments;
  • make sure you communicate your needs do not assume others will know what support you do and don’t need;
  • work with your manager to develop a plan, so it is clear what is expected of you and what supports are in place to assist you. The Return to work or stay at work discussion plan may also be helpful for you and your manager for conversations around developing your plan.

If you are having time away from the workplace and planning to return, things you can do to plan your return include:

  • having a regular catch up with your manager to keep you connected with the workplace
  • letting your manager know if you want to receive visits, calls or emails from workmates
  • allowing your manager to be in touch with your doctor for regular updates.