How do I make sure that I will have a job to come back to after checking into a psychiatric hospital?
February 25, 2011 5:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I make sure that I will have a job to come back to after checking into a psychiatric hospital?

I have been severely depressed and feeling suicidal for the past couple of weeks. I've been seeing a therapist for a bit and last week they asked if I thought if I should go to the hospital. I guess this was somewhat of a wake up call to me, and I am now considering checking myself in to a hospital.

I've been inpatient at a hospital before for a suicide attempt back in my teenage years so I kind of know what to expect. What I really worry about is how taking an unknown amount of medical leave will be viewed by my job. What should I tell my boss? Should I tell them exactly what's going on or should I be vague? What should I do if I'm vague and they ask questions? Is this something that I should tell them prior to checking in or after?

I work at a fast paced company and I don't want to be fired over this (b/c I will be essentially dropping my workload for an unknown period of time.) Is this something that they can fire you over, or hold over me head at my next performance review?

Honestly I'd rather be as vague as possible with my employer because I fear that any information I give would spread around the office. Not too mention I don't really expect anyone to understand. I have a great job and I don't want to lose it. This fear is pretty much the only thing stopping me from getting the help that I probably need. So what should I do?

Throwaway email if needed:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Stay focused on the fact that major depression is an illness. In fact, if left untreated, it is an illness with a very high fatality rate. So, if you need to be in the hospital to get proper treatment, then the treatment that you need to stay alive is your first priority.

Second, this should be treated just like any other medical leave. Since not everyone is open-minded about mental illnesses and legally, the details of your illness are none of their business, come up with a simple answer and refuse to answer questions you don't want to answer. (Think of Steve Jobs not talking about the details of his pancreatic cancer) Work with your therapist on this.

Here is an example is true and simple: "I am experiencing serious problems with my brain chemistry and the doctor has told me that I will need to be hospitalized until they figure out the correct medication to stabilize the situation. Usually this takes one to two weeks, although depending on how my body responds, it may take longer."

If they ask for details, you might say "I will (or have already) provide HR with what they need to approve my leave but otherwise I really don't want to talk about it." or "Forgive me for not answering, but it is really too distressing to talk about it." or "You know the details don't really matter. I just want to do what I can to help you cover my position while I am out."
posted by metahawk at 5:44 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it a large enough company to have an HR department? I would talk to HR -- not your bosses -- and ask about FMLA. You're entitled to 12 weeks per 12 months of unpaid, job protected leave.

This PDF has information; you do NOT have to tell the employer why you require the leave, only enough information to prove it is, in fact, necessary. If you have an HR department, they should be able to walk you through it. (Your immediate supervisor ideally is not involved with your FMLA decisions.) If not, you'll probably have to advocate more for yourself. Ideally you notify before unless it is an emergency admission.

I would just tell your bosses that you have to be hospitalized, briefly, for treatment of a serious health issue that you don't wish to discuss and you look forward to returning feeling 100%.

Congratulations on being brave enough to pursue treatment; a friend of mine was inpatient a year ago for psychiatric treatment and it was a hard decision but a wonderful one; he got the help he needed and is much, much healthier now.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:45 PM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

We'll need to know where you live. Where I am in the UK they would probably be on pretty dodgy ground to sack you, how long they had to wait to take action would depend on the particular agred working conditions for that workplace, but it could be months. This is not to say all employers are perfect and will abide by the regulations to the letter, some will try and get around it.

This may be quite different if you are not in the UK.
posted by biffa at 5:45 PM on February 25, 2011

(Sorry, I totally assumed you're in the U.S. based on your diction and word choice. If not, tell the mods to delete my answer.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:45 PM on February 25, 2011

Tell them that you have a medical emergency that requires in-patient care. Because you do. If anyone presses for details, you owe them nothing. You can just say "It's something I'd rather not discuss."

Hope you're feeling better soon.
posted by corey flood at 5:46 PM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

Just wanted to add there is more detail than you need in my proposed answer. If you want to just say "medical emergency - doctor's orders" that is all anyone really needs to know.
posted by metahawk at 5:50 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your company's HR situation can make a huge difference. If I were you, I'd probably leave the explanation at something like "acute medical situation requiring inpatient care" (as opposed to the above reference to "brain chemistry" or something like that).
posted by J. Wilson at 6:02 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

The last time I dealt with anything like this (in NYC a million moons ago) HR specifically did NOT want me to name the nature of my illness, even though I was perfectly happy to do so.

If you are in the US, do check out FMLA. My understanding from that experience was you can not be asked specifics other than to prove you are under a doctor's care. The end.
posted by jbenben at 6:03 PM on February 25, 2011

FMLA only applies if the company has more than 40 employees. Also depending on where you are you may get additional state leave (for example it is 16 weeks in DC, not 12). YOu may also be eligible for short term medical disability under your insurance policy. Obviously outside the US check local laws and regulations.
posted by humanfont at 7:49 PM on February 25, 2011

FMLA only applies if the company has more than 40 employees

This is wrong. FMLA applies to companies employing 50 or more individuals for at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

That aside, assuming your employer is subject to FMLA, you may or may not be eligible. Do you work at least 25 hours a week, and have you for the past 12 months? Have you worked for this company for at least 12 months total? Finally, are there at least 50 employees at your jobsite (or within 75 miles of your jobsite)? If so, you're likely eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, with the right to reinstatement to your position (or a nearly identical one) when you return from leave.

You need to speak with HR immediately to request a medical leave of absence. Simply needing leave doesn't mean that you'll be approved to take it. You typically must submit a completed certification form (filled out by your doctor) within 15 days of requesting leave. If there's anyone who can help with this, now's a good time to enlist a close friend or family member to keep up with deadlines and make sure all of your paperwork is submitted in time for your leave to be approved.

(Spoken as someone who manages FMLA leaves for upwards of 3600 employees now.)
posted by pecanpies at 7:17 AM on February 26, 2011

(Also, like others above me, I'm assuming you're in the US.)
posted by pecanpies at 7:18 AM on February 26, 2011

nthing FMLA - it's very good protection and actually, if you're eligible it's your employers responsibility to make sure that they tell you about it if they have any reason to believe you could be eligible. Usually this means if you're absent more than a certain number of days in a row, but it can mean other things.

I had a family member deal with this, so I have first hand experience.

It's very easy to qualify for FMLA, your doctor fills out a very simple, short form for your employer, and if you check yourself into a place, they will help you do this. You can even file for it after the fact if your condition prohibited you from being able to do it beforehand. And once you've been granted FMLA leave, you have a whole host of new protections if your condition should ever occur again.
posted by jardinier at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2011

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