Are the workplace and mental illness incompatible?

The Road To Mental Wellness > Opinion piece > Are the workplace and mental illness incompatible?

Is the workplace and mental illness incompatible? Furthermore, can we realistically expect our employer to fully accommodate ask because we’re illness?

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Depression. If you have it, you know just how hard it can be to pick your head up off the pillow, never mind going to work. depression is after all, the leading cause of disability worldwide. That’s right, worldwide! But why?

Well, I suspect that there are many reasons for this under-recognized pandemic. From neurobiological reasons, such as low-grade inflammation of the brain to stressful life events, depression is real, and the symptoms are observable.

Now, whether people are trained to see them, or want to bother are a different matter. Sadly, in our fast-paced world, it’s hard for folks to bother, even if they really wanted to. So, I think our approach to helping the depressed or people with mental illness in general needs to be broader. For example, can we really expect everyone to care about mental illness? Furthermore, can we just demand that the mentally well sit up and give us unconditional understanding? Personally, I feel like this is an unrealistic expectation.

Similarly, can we expect our loved ones to “always understand?” Or is it only human that our depression be mentally draining on them as well? So, from that lens, maybe we need to be kinder on those who are fortunate enough not to be battling the beast. Essentially, you got to give for what you take.

More articles on PTSD

And what of our workplaces? Can we find a solution for the way mental illness is dealt with? The answer is an unequivocal, yes! But how should workplaces address it?

A common answer may be, “If I call in sick because I am mentally ill, they should understand that.” A notion that I fully support. However, what if one has PTSD and they have an aversion to noise, they work in violent occupations, or they are overcome by hypervigilance? Do they quit or is it up to them to adapt to the environment?

What’s more, what if a business has several employees, many with different mental illnesses? Can they accommodate everyone? Or are the workplace and mental illness incompatible?

If our answer is, “They just need to accommodate them,” I’m afraid this answer is simply not good enough. Knowing that there should be zero discrimination in the workplace, what measures can get results?

How do approach your workplace about your mental illness

If we go back to the post-traumatic stress example, how can we be accommodated? In my experience with PTSD, there is little that can be done by your employer. However, that’s not to say that nothing can be done.

When we look at the symptoms, we can see that they are the type that make the world around the sufferer chaos. For instance, a normal day for some is like a walk in hell when the symptoms are high.

Some of the key symptoms include:


A high startle response


Poor concentration.

And easily overwhelmed/overstimulated.

So then, how does an employer help someone in this type of debilitated predicament?  Well, they can deal with it in a few ways.

1. They can assign you with the least stimulating job in the company, best if it’s just you.

2. They can train the staff to understand the disorder so they can see and adjust with minimal amounts of judgment.

3. Be more forgiving when you display symptoms that may be seen as a “disciplinary worthy offense.”


Any good lawyer or union Rep will tell you that it’s best to have everything in writing. Therefore, it’s better for you to first start by writing them an email. Remember, if what you need isn’t written down, it didn’t happen. That’s exactly what you want to avoid. The sad reality is you must protect yourself first. Always keep a paper trail and get all future interactions in writing.

Related – Hidden Disability

Of course, this is all contingent on whether they are the kind of workplace that are willing to work with mental illness. But how would one know? Announcing to your manager that you have a mental illness can be the beginning of a termination in the making. So, it’s no surprise that so many of us fear even whispering it under our breath in the workplace.

Again, I ask you, are the workplace and mental illness incompatible? The answer, or so I think is, sort of. On one hand, employers can’t discriminate and conspire to fire, but on the other, how much accommodation can they realistically provide?

Unfortunately, when it comes to PTSD and other mental illnesses, we must adapt too. While our fears about approaching our bosses is legit, we cannot not do it either. So, say for example, that your anxiety is so high, as was the case when I was working, that you spend an hour or two in the bathroom trying to avoid the chaos.

Need help? Go to Our Mental Health Resources Centre

Learn to Manage and Thrive

  • His lifelong battle with depression
  •  The benefits of exercise
  • How to start to overcome the dread and exhaustion of depression
  • How small steps make huge differences
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  • How to set boundaries with yourself when you have a mental health condition·
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If our employer knows nothing about our diagnosis, the chances of us getting fired are greater than that of informing them.

Don’t forget to come back and read my next article: How to talk to your boss about your mental illness.

At the end of the day, our place of employment and our mental health conditions may not be completely compatible, but if we build a partnership with our bosses, we can still make our living whilst at the same time being as productive as possible. Good luck!

Front and back cover of the road to mental wellness - 8 sings your relationship is hurting your mental health.
Want to get the complete Audiobook version Free! Go to our Homepage and use the Scriber form to receive our newsletter. Boom the book is yours.

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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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