Only 21 percent of people with mental health disorders would talk about it in a workplace setting*

Mental health disorders are forms of disabilities that often go unnoticed. The number of people with mental health disorders is steadily increasing. Nevertheless, the topic is still considered a big taboo in the workplace setting.

When asked “Do you know someone with a mental health disorder?”, around 94 percent of the participants present in the myAbility webinar on January 26, 2022 answered with “yes”. Almost everyone comes into contact with the topic of “mental health disorders” at some point. This has a major effect on the labour market and organizations.

It takes a lot of courage and a sensitive environment to face one’s mental health disorder in the workplace. At the same time, employers have a great influence on the recovery of their employees and on maintaining their ability to work. Besides being considered a taboo subject in the workplace setting, there is often a lack of both knowledge and space for communicating about this topic, which of course leads to uncertainty.


Sensing Journey expert Michael Diesner speaks openly about his mental health disorder, a form of schizophrenia. Since his boss had already had experiences with mental health disorders in his family, he showed sympathy and openness after Michael’s first episode. He enabled Michael to return to work. After this experience, Michael was able to cope with another episode much faster.


“I wanted to be part of the team again and be of help to everyone.” Michael Diesner, DisAbility Recruiting Consultant

Create a culture of open communication

Anyone can have a mental health disorder at some point in their life. "Managers, young professionals, also psychological specialists", as mentioned by Angela Mach (psychotherapist in training, qualified psychiatric nurse and consultant for mental preventive healthcare at the Institut für Suchtprävention der Sucht- und Drogenkoordination der Stadt Wien (institute for the prevention of drug addiction). Reliable teams, openness and trust are far more important.

"We spend a lot of time at work and it's up to all of us to create this place." Angela Mach, psychotherapist in training.

Three steps for managers

  1. Reflect: How would I want to be dealt with in this situation?
  2. Start the conversation with friendly intentions and interest. It often takes more than one conversation.
  3. Have a list of helpful contacts within and outside of your organization. (Example of a list of links)

Sensitively take up and discuss the topic in your own organization

The Generali Versicherungs AG (insurance company) has created reliable internal structures and, therefore, the topic of mental health disorders is part of management training courses and is now entrenched within the teams. In addition to participating in Sensing Journeys, there is also a low-threshold internal offer for psychotherapeutic support. Wolfgang Kosmath, head of personnel development, works closely with the corporation’s representatives for people with disabilities.

"We have an external and internal coaching and therapy program for some time now. This also includes offerings on exercise and nutrition. In order to optimally support people after a burnout, for example.” Susanne Kogler, representative of people with disabilities

Generali relies on various collaborative partnerships to support managers and employees. In case of an emergency, you know where to turn to. Already at the beginning of the COVID crisis, Wolfgang Kosmath deliberately trained managers on the subject of "mental health disorders". These are based on two pillars:

  • Raising awareness
  • Removing taboos regarding the topic of mental health disorders and connecting with experts in “their own field” (e.g. Sensing Journey)

Close cooperation between HR, the representative of people with disabilities and occupational medicine is important. Also, managers know where to turn to in their own company.

Treat each other with care

Good cooperation is the basis for breaking the taboo on mental health disorders in the company.

"Trust yourself to recognize when someone does not feel well and look for solutions inside the company to deal with it.” Wolfgang Kosmath, head of personnel development.

Watch the full webinar here