[Disclosure of a mental disorder in the workplace and work accommodations: two factors associated with job tenure of people with severe mental disorders]

Encephale. 2014 Jun;40 Suppl 2:S91-S102. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2014.04.006. Epub 2014 Jun 16.
[Article in French]


Job tenure for people with severe mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia) remains a stumbling-block to their work integration. However, the length of job tenure can vary according to the workplace (e.g., provided resources) and the work context (e.g., regular market, social firms). This gap can be explained in part by diverse organisational components, particularly the implementation of work accommodations, which is related to the disclosure of the mental disorder in the workplace. Indeed, in the scientific literature, the principal reason associated with disclosure is in regards to requesting work accommodations. The main objective of this paper is to increase our understanding of the relationships between these three concepts - disclosure of a mental disorder, work accommodations and natural supports, and job tenure - by reviewing the specialized literature and presenting the work of the authors of this paper. To do so, the authors will address the following questions: How do we define 'disclosure' of a mental disorder in the workplace and what are the strategies to consider before disclosing? What is the decision-making process related to disclosure in the workplace? How are the three concepts - disclosure of the mental disorder in the workplace, work accommodations and job tenure - intertwined? Finally, how can employment specialists facilitate the work integration of people with severe mental disorders by considering the three concepts mentioned above? Results from a review of the literature show that disclosure of a mental disorder is a dialectical process that goes beyond the question: to tell or not to tell? In fact, it is not a single binary decision. Several components are associated with the disclosure concept, and can be summarized by the questions: What, how, when and to whom to disclose his/her mental condition? Reasons for disclosing his/her mental disorder in the workplace are numerous, characterized by personal, interpersonal and work environmental factors, on one hand. On the other hand, disclosure has potential consequences, both positive (e.g., to obtain work accommodations) and negative (e.g., stigma). A decision-making process takes place when people with a severe mental disorder think about the possibility of disclosing their mental condition in the workplace - a complex decisional process involving the need to evaluate different aspects (i.e. individual, interpersonal and work environmental factors). Also, the literature supports the fact that requiring work accommodations is often related to the disclosure of the mental disorder, when natural supports in the workplace are not available. The literature is scarce regarding the correlations between the concepts of disclosure, implementation of work accommodations and job tenure; however, a more recent study demonstrated this significant relationship, in which the supervisor and co-worker supports are crucial. Employment specialists or counselors recognise the importance of planned disclosure as a means to obtain access to work adjustments in the workplace and to prevent stigma. The employment specialist working in supported employment programs for instance, could adopt with his/her clients a plan for managing the pros and cons of disclosure of the mental disorder in the workplace; this plan is entitled: Managing personal information. It consists of several steps - for example, to collect details of any sensitive information such as diagnosis, to identify work restrictions with the client, to have a common agreement (employment specialists and clients together) on terms to describe work restrictions - to help clients feel empowered and more confident as productive and valued workers. This plan allows employment specialists to work through the disclosure concept, often negatively connoted, and to adopt a more normalising strategy. Furthermore, additional tools for supporting the management of personal information plan could be used such as the Decision-Making About Disclosure Scale, the Barriers to Employment and Coping Efficacy Scale, and the Work Accommodation and Natural Support Scale, to name a few. To conclude, job tenure for people with severe mental disorders is not a pious vow, several pragmatic ingredients for intervening on this issue are now available.

Keywords: Accommodements et soutiens naturels en milieu de travail; Disclosure of the mental disorder; Divulgation du trouble mental; Gestion des informations personnelles; Job tenure; Maintien en emploi; Managing personal information; Severe mental disorders; Troubles mentaux graves; Work accommodations and natural supports in the workplace.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confidentiality
  • Employment, Supported / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Personnel Selection
  • Personnel Turnover
  • Quebec
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational / psychology*
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / rehabilitation
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Self Disclosure*