Disclosing mental illnesses

Despite the fact that now it is a lot more “acceptable” to talk about mental illness, there is still a stigma. Even though there are laws to say that employers can’t use your mental illnesses as a reason not to give you a job etc., it doesn’t mean that isn’t sometimes a reason (it could even happen implicitly.)

I have been quite open about my issues… when I was first diagnosed, I told my work. At uni, I told my tutor, my departments etc. Close friends know (at least part of) what is going on/has happened. Most of these people don’t know the full story but they know I suffer from depression and anxiety.

I am off to Germany in 2 weeks, to a place where no one knows anything about me.

They don’t know that I have depression or anxiety, they don’t know any of it at all. And now I have to decide who needs to know and who doesn’t.

For example, I’m staying with a family for at least the first month… do they need to know? At first I thought not. And then I realised I probably should warn them about me screaming in the night sometimes (as it has happened a few times recently.) But how would I explain that? 

And what about the school I’m going to be working in? Or the university I’ll be enrolling at? Or the friends I make there?

Who needs to know? Or maybe the better question is, who do I want to know?

I would love to not tell any of them, and for everything to run smoothly, without my depression and anxiety affecting me in a major way… but is that realistic? Probably not.

I know that if I start struggling I need to reach out for help and support straight away, not wait until I literally have had enough and have booked myself on the next flight home. But what if I tell them and they judge me? What if I tell them and then I’m fine – I’ll look like I’m lying. What if I don’t tell them and then I need help?

Too many questions. And I don’t know the right answer to any of them. I don’t know how understanding/supportive they would/will be. I just don’t know!


10 thoughts on “Disclosing mental illnesses

  1. Grace says:

    Want a(n) (German) opinion?
    Get to know them really well first and then decide if you like them, feel comfortable with them knowing and if they _really_ need to know.

    I personally wouldn’t tell anyone official (e.g. school / university) unless you really need to IF there is some kind of emergency or something. Also, it’s just none of their business. Seriously… I would never ever tell my employer … for reasons. Yes, they might be understanding and caring… but it’s just not their problem – unless you stop functioning in your position – and then you can still explain your issues and then you can try to find a solution together.

    The thing is – you might be just fine. There might be no problems at all – but you don’t and can’t know yet. So why tell them when everything is (still) fine? I think it would make people a bit nervous and vigilant to know such things in advance and they might have prejudices too. But when they get to know you just like that (without knowing of your problems) and everything is fine and then there is a problem – then that’s just different, you know?

    I don’t want to scare you but I feel that the stigma around mental illness is bigger in Germany than it is in England (especially around less educated people).

    I hope this comment doesn’t sound too negative but I really feel like Germans don’t care about anyone’s issues unless you stop functioning – and when you stop functioning you can still explain things – and then they’ll be more or less understanding. But as long as they don’t really know you… knowing about mental illness things would just influence their image of you in advance – and it wouldn’t be in a good way.

    (I feel soo bad for writing this.)


    • Grace says:

      I thought long about adding this… but in Germany it’s common practice not to be given jobs if you have a history of mental illness. Of course, it happens more implicitly but I know of many students who want to be a teacher after university… they don’t even start therapy (even though they’d need it) because they know it would dramatically decrease their chances of getting a job later on…
      Also, you can e-mail me if you’d like to discuss this with me in depth. Because I really feel like my comment is awful but I can’t discuss all the cultural background stuff on here.

      Hugs xxx

    • anxiouselephant says:

      Thanks for your comment grace, I really appreciate your advice. My teacher said there is more stigma in Germany than England so that was part of my worries! I think you’re right, I’ll only tell people if they need to know and they don’t need to know unless I’m struggling. Thanks again, and please don’t feel bad! Xxx

      • Grace says:

        I just don’t you to feel bad about this… people are still nice over here! 😉
        Also, didn’t you say you had a woman at your German school who takes care of you, like a mentor? I think if you get along well and if you feel comfortable with her, she should be the one to talk to … she might be a great help… just in case of emergency. (I hope I remember this information about the woman right).
        Try not to worry… everything will work out. I’m sure of that 🙂 xxxx

      • anxiouselephant says:

        Yes you are right I have a mentor teacher, and she seems really nice (from her emails.) Good plan Grace, thanks for your reassurance, I’m sure it will be fine too 🙂 xxx

  2. Cat says:

    Sometimes it’s easier for people to get to know us first and then learn of our mental illness. Some people know nothing other than the stigma.

  3. Bourbon says:

    Tough decisions… I’m glad Grace is here with an opinion based on the culture out in Germany. Is there someone at your uni you can discuss this with too? xx

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