This week, an anonymous podcast listener from Brooklyn, NY, wrote in and wondered if she should tell people about her social anxiety. She gets anxious when people watch her eat or drink, especially if she doesn’t know them well. She wonders if it would be helpful to announce it: “Sometimes eating in restaurants makes me nervous,” or if that would just elicit raised eyebrows and awkward questions.
Coming out about your mental health can be tough in any situation. Should you disclose to colleagues? To friends? On a first date? On a twentieth date? To your Michael Scott-esque boss? Any way you slice it, it’s a decision only you can make.
Many people stay silent because they anticipate rejection, judgment, or outright discrimination. But others decide to disclose to gain support, exercise their civil rights, and break the stigma.
For what it’s worth, there’s already a whole lotta disclosing going on. Even with a heavy topic—specifically, suicidal thoughts among individuals living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression—a study led by University of Southern California researchers found that 77% of participants had already disclosed to someone in their social network, and every single person—100%—planned to reach out if suicidal thoughts came back.
But it’s still a hard decision. Disclosures, like diamonds, are forever; they can’t be unseen, just like the uncanny resemblance between the Monopoly guy and the guy on the Pringles can. (Or maybe that’s just me. The mustache? The bow tie? Anyone?)
Regardless, let’s think through whether or not to disclose your mental health, plus how to do in a style that works for you.
First up: a study out of King’s College London pilot-tested a decision aid for people pondering whether or not to disclose their mental illness to employers. There is much to think about, including these four points: