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How do you tell your employer about your psychiatric disability?

Some disabilities are obvious to the world -- while others are very much "hidden" conditions that observers can't automatically discern just by looking at someone.

Psychiatric disabilities often fall into that category of "hidden" conditions. Consequently, the people who suffer from them are often uncertain about when -- or if -- they should tell their employers about their condition. If you're struggling with a psychiatric disability, here are the things you should know about telling your employer about your condition:

1. You have the right to disclose your disability. You also have the right to stay silent.

Before you decide to tell your employer about your disability, you need to decide if doing so benefits you in some way. You're under no legal obligation to tell your employer about your mental health -- and you face the very real possibility of disability discrimination once you do.

On the other hand, not telling your employer about your condition may leave you frustrated and unable to obtain the accommodations you're entitled to receive to make your work life easier.

2. Your mental health provider can help you figure out what to say to your boss.

If you decide to disclose your condition, go in with a plan. You want to be able to clearly describe your disability for your employer, including how it may manifest in visible or measurable ways on the job.

You also want to walk into the meeting with your employer with a clear understanding of what you'd like to see happen. Be ready to negotiate for the accommodations you want or need in advance in order to get the best results. Many employers respond better to the news of a disability when employees are able to clearly explain how it will (and won't) affect their work.

Ask your therapist to help you determine the best accommodations for your condition and to give you some advice about how to describe your condition to your boss.

If you feel subjected to discrimination after you disclose your disability, it's important to document everything that happens carefully. If you have to eventually pursue legal action due to the discrimination, that documentation can help your case in tremendous ways.

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