How I spoke to my boss about my depression

An empathetic and supportive workplace can help an employee with mental illness continue to work

Aruna Raman

When I began working in my current role, I had several apprehensions, some of them pertaining to my mental illness. I didn’t actually speak openly about my mental illness until about a year after I took this job. I spoke to my boss about how my colleagues functioned, which was causing me anxiety. I had known that my boss had depression too, and that sort of took the threat away. 

The concerns he had were practical, as how this would affect my schedule and how I would be able to manage; and we figured out how to set up mechanisms to deal with my challenges. Since my colleagues are now in the know, they are supportive and empathetic.

My work gives me the freedom and flexibility that supports me. I have an unconventional routine, which makes space for the spurts of creativity I experience sometimes. On days when I don’t feel very creative, I choose to focus on routine tasks such as documentation. I can articulate when I don’t feel optimal, and seek support.  But I would say, hats off to my employer. I can do what I do because they are who they are.

I believe that with timely intervention, support and honesty, people with depression or anxiety don’t need to step down. They can take a step sideways and find a role that excites and supports them.

Aruna Raman is a social innovator and an educator.