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What are reasonable work accommodations for mental illness?

Most people are familiar with anti-discrimination laws regarding those with disabilities, such as being in a wheelchair or being deaf. Because physical disabilities tend to be visible or more concrete, it can be easier for employers to determine how to accommodate employees. 

But what about mental health issues? Mental illness of all ranges also receives protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. These needs may be less noticeable and harder to understand, but they still warrant accommodations in the workplace.

Examples of accommodations for mental illness

When you start a new job, you may not know what accommodations are available to you. The U.S. Department of Labor offers examples that may be relevant to you and that you can share with your boss:

  • Create a flexible schedule to work around therapy sessions
  • Include more breaks
  • Write down instructions in small steps
  • Eliminate non-essential tasks
  • Provide additional training and/or special equipment
  • Reduce distractions, noise and other stressors
  • Allow telecommuting, if possible
  • Offer private office space

Many others exist, so it is important to discuss with your medical provider and/or mental health counselor what your exact needs are.

How to receive workplace accommodations for mental illness

Communication is vital in preventing discrimination. As soon as you receive a job offer, let your potential employer know what your limitations are. You may have to provide proof from your doctor that you have a mental health condition, though you do not have to share the specific diagnosis, and that you need accommodations.

The employer cannot use this information to not hire you, fire you later on or treat you unfairly in any other way. Your workplace must provide at least one accommodation unless it would be beyond difficult and expensive, and you do not shoulder any of the cost. With the legal protections you have today, your mental health does not have to be a hurdle in obtaining or retaining employment.

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