"You don't look like one of them": disclosure of mental illness in the workplace as an ongoing dilemma

Psychiatr Rehabil J. Fall 2011;35(2):145-7. doi: 10.2975/35.2.2011.145.147.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the pressures surrounding disclosure of a mental illness in the New Zealand workplace.

Methods: Using qualitative methods and general inductive analysis, the study included twenty-two employed New Zealanders with experience of mental illnesses.

Results: Fear of discrimination, and legal, practical and moral pressures contributed to tension between workplace disclosure and non-disclosure of a mental illness.

Conclusions and implications for practice: The decision to disclose a mental illness is a dilemma throughout the employment process, not just a problem for the beginning of an employment relationship. Employees with experience of mental illnesses and their employers need to be able to access advice throughout this process on disclosure issues. Disclosure is irreversible; therefore, the decision to disclose, and its timing, must remain at the discretion of the employee.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Confidentiality* / ethics
  • Confidentiality* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Decision Making
  • Disclosure* / ethics
  • Disclosure* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Job Application*
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Morale
  • New Zealand
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Time Factors
  • Workplace / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Workplace / psychology