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Should you tell HR about depression?

Mental health issues like depression are becoming more common in workplaces. With depression impacting over 16 million American adults per year, it’s likely that you or someone you work with is dealing with it. This raises an important question: should you tell your company’s HR department if you have depression?

What are the potential benefits of telling HR about depression?

There are several potential advantages to informing your HR department about depression or other mental health issues:

  • Requesting accommodations: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform their essential job duties. Telling HR about your depression makes them aware you may need accommodations like a modified schedule, telework options, or adjustments to workload or deadlines.
  • Taking protected leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for serious health conditions like depression. Notifying HR enables you to formally request FMLA leave if needed.
  • Educating your employer: HR staff can educate other managers about depression and mental health conditions so your needs are understood. This reduces stigma and makes it more likely coworkers will provide support.
  • Accessing support or benefits: HR departments often facilitate access to employee assistance programs (EAPs), wellness resources, and mental health benefits offered through your health insurance. They can connect you with relevant services and support.
  • Avoiding misunderstandings: If depression is impacting your productivity or interactions, HR is better equipped to address any issues if they understand you have a medical condition.

What are the potential risks of telling HR about depression?

While there are benefits, there are also some potential downsides to consider when deciding whether to tell HR about depression:

  • Discrimination: There is still stigma surrounding mental illness. Some employers may make unfair assumptions about your abilities and discriminate against you.
  • Loss of privacy: HR staff will have sensitive medical information about you on file. If not properly secured, your privacy could be compromised.
  • Career impact: Employers may overlook you for promotions or assignments if they have concerns about your mental health. Telling HR could inadvertently stall your career progress.
  • Forced leave: HR could decide you need to take a leave of absence against your wishes if they feel you cannot perform your role safely due to depression.
  • Changes to benefits: Health insurance costs tend to rise when a workforce reports more medical issues. Some employers may scale back benefits in response.

Tips for telling HR about depression

If you decide disclosing your depression to HR is the right choice, here are some tips to consider:

  • Know your rights: Be familiar with ADA and FMLA protections so you can advocate for your needs and recognize any violations.
  • Get documentation: Provide HR with documentation from your doctor or mental health professional so your condition and requested accommodations are verified.
  • Make a list of accommodations: Specify the schedule changes, leave time, or other accommodations you may require so HR can efficiently support you.
  • Frame it positively: Avoid apologizing or portraying your depression negatively. Present it as a health issue you are proactively managing.
  • Follow up: After telling HR, follow up to ensure your information was received and to activate any next steps like leave paperwork or accommodations.

Questions to consider before telling HR

Before deciding whether to disclose depression to your employer’s HR staff, reflect on these key questions:

  • Is your company supportive of mental health issues? Review policies and culture cues to gauge how they handle sensitive medical needs.
  • Do you definitely require accommodations? Don’t disclose unless you are certain you need workplace changes to manage your depression.
  • Are you prepared for colleagues to know? Assuming HR informs your supervisor, are you ready for team members to potentially find out?
  • Could it impact your advancement? Determine if telling HR could inadvertently limit your career progress in your current role.
  • Would the benefits outweigh the risks? Consider the pros and cons to decide if disclosure seems prudent for your circumstances.

Alternatives to telling HR

If you are unsure about informing your company’s HR staff about depression, some alternatives may be:

  • Tell your direct supervisor – If you have a good relationship with your manager, you may feel more comfortable confiding in them. They can still make accommodations without involving HR.
  • Speak to an outside counselor – Talking to a therapist or counselor can provide support without disclosing private details to your employer.
  • Look into FMLA without specifying a condition – You can request time off under FMLA without naming your specific medical condition if preferred.
  • Make informal arrangements – Ask your supervisor for accommodations like a flexible schedule without formally bringing HR into the process.
  • Focus on wellness first – Before addressing work accommodations, prioritize steps like medication, therapy, exercise, and self-care to manage symptoms.

Key takeaways on telling HR about depression

Consider these main points when deciding if disclosing depression to HR makes sense for your situation:

  • Benefits include requesting formal accommodations, taking medical leave, accessing support services, and educating your employer.
  • Potential risks range from discrimination and loss of privacy to stalled career advancement in some cases.
  • Evaluate your company culture, need for accommodations, and readiness for others to know when deciding.
  • Alternatives like only telling your manager or focusing on self-care may also be viable options.
  • Talk to a mental health professional for guidance on navigating depression in your workplace.

Table summarizing key considerations

Pros of Telling HR About Depression Cons of Telling HR About Depression
Request reasonable accommodations under ADA Experience discrimination due to stigma
Take FMLA leave for your health condition Lose privacy if information isn’t properly secured
Educate your employer to foster understanding Miss out on career opportunities due to assumptions
Access employee support services and benefits Forced onto leave against your wishes
Avoid misunderstandings about performance issues Company scales back benefits due to costs


Disclosing depression or other mental health conditions to your employer’s HR department is an incredibly personal decision. There are potential advantages like securing accommodations, as well as risks like discrimination. Carefully weigh the benefits against possible downsides based on your individual circumstances. Speak with a mental health professional and trusted loved ones before making your choice. With proper planning, you can reveal your depression in an appropriate way when doing so enables you to perform at your best.