Quick Facts: Should Individuals Disclose Their Mental Illness?
If everyone knew someone with a mental illness, attitudes toward mental illness would change. That is the suggestion of researchers in a major report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, after an exhaustive review of related books, journal articles and databases.
They found that although individuals with mental illness fear being rejected by family, friends and employers, those who disclose often feel relief after doing so. Often, the result of disclosure is improved relationships. However, disclosure can also lead to problems and it is important to think through the decision to disclose. Each person's situation is different-- not all disclosure is a good idea-- and it is important to plan before disclosing. The researchers suggest beginning by telling a small group of people you trust. Employers, they suggest, should only be told about mental illness when it is necessary, for example, when special accommodations would be helpful, but, in general, not before being hired.
Mental health providers can play an important role in helping clients decide whether and how to inform others about their mental illness. "Psychologists can be a big benefit to helping clients weight the pros and cons of self-disclosure," says Paolo del Vecchio, one of the authors of the report.