It's no secret that academics have a high rate of mental health diagnoses (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-03803-3), and that academic career paths may disproportionately attract people with serious mental health issues in the first place (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5824688/).

At the same time, many countries are beginning to recognize certain mental health diagnoses as disabilities. I have always hid my diagnoses as much as possible-- partly because of the inconsistency of the diagnoses themselves from year to year and doctor to doctor, and partly because I had been advised by older mentors to do so.

So I wonder: are there benefits to disclosing a serious mental illness and applying for disability status? I am thinking specifically of postdocs or professors; for students I am already aware of all the accomodations provided (at least by American and Western European universities).

  • 1
    "applying for disability status" I've never heard of this before. Is it unique to your university or country? May 29, 2019 at 10:26
  • I don't think so. In the U.S. and Europe, it's possible to gain disability status. I don't actually know how this works, but considering how often I've seen check boxes on forms for this, I assume it's a thing you can apply for and get some kind of certification of. A quick search for "apply for disability" and a country name gives more specific information.
    – user108403
    May 29, 2019 at 11:15
  • 1
    Are you sure that's something run by a University? May 29, 2019 at 22:41
  • I'm quite certain it's not run by a university. But many jobs I applied for asked me if I had disability status, and listed a number of conditions "counting" as disabilities.
    – user108403
    May 31, 2019 at 7:42
  • 2
    In that case I would suggest removing the part about registering, since it's not about academia, and making the question be just about disclosing. May 31, 2019 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


I'll answer this part:

are there benefits to disclosing a serious mental illness

  • If you are teaching, there are benefits to your students. Many students have disabilities. Students do better when they see successful people who are like them. These role models increase students' belief in their own abilities, which is called self efficacy. Students with higher belief in their own abilities learn more. If you disclose your disability, it will help students with disabilities succeed academically.
  • For hiring and promotion purposes, some institutions consider performance relative to opportunity. This sort of assessment is common in Australia, for example. If your disability has reduced the opportunities available to you, then disclosure may make your achievements seem more impressive.

You did not ask about the potential disadvantages.


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