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Throwaway account for obvious reasons.

I'm in the middle of a research fellowship/postdoc working with a bunch of people on various projects (in mathematics). Over the last 8 months, I have had a tumultuous relationship with my mental health that has led to many days being unable to do work. I have about four to five research collaborations that I am working on at varying stages of completion. I haven't been able to work on them as efficiently and effectively as I wish, but each is making some amount of progress to the point where no one has actively stated their discontent on the progress of said projects due to my performance.

I'm debating telling everyone what has happened over the eight months and I am unsure to what extent I need to explain my lack of engagement with each project due to personal issues. On one hand, I don't want people to think I was slacking off, but on the other hand many people will write letters for faculty positions and I don't want them thinking I cannot hack it. I hope to not mess up my academic reputation. There's no requirement to tell anyone as I am on my own funding, so there's no "boss" that I need to tell when I take days off for mental difficulties.

What is the best way to deal with mental health issues when one is in the middle of collaborations and can't work at their standard pace? Do I tell collaborators of my current struggle or do I keep discretion as personal life should not interact with work life?

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    I think that you should not feel obliged to tell your collaborators, but neither should you feel afraid to do so. If they are professional, they should understand rather than stigmatize you. – Yemon Choi May 25 '16 at 17:14
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    Note also that you can mention that you have "health issues" without saying "mental health issues". If you say something that general, it is a clue that you do not want to get into the specifics, but you should probably think out in advance how to field further questions. – Pete L. Clark May 25 '16 at 21:49
  • Consider telling your collaborators that you've been having health problems that have had a detrimental effect on your research productivity, without specifying that those are mental health issues. Most people understand that health is a private matter and will not make a fuss about not knowing the precise reasons. And if they don't know the problem is mental health-related I would imagine they are less likely to have a negative bias towards you based on your health situation. Good luck in any case. – Dan Romik May 25 '16 at 21:52
  • @PeteL.Clark haha beat me to it... – Dan Romik May 25 '16 at 21:52
  • @pete l. Clark if you were to write that as an answer, I would up vote it. – Flyto May 28 '16 at 7:32
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That's a pretty big "if" @YemonChoi has there.

Yes, ideally there should not be a stigma. But realistically, even if your collaborators are professional enough not to stigmatize you, are they also professional enough not to mention such a communication to others?

What has been said cannot be unsaid.

I would recommend to let sleeping dogs lie. As long as nobody has complained, you don't need to explain yourself. (Maybe people not only didn't complain, but also didn't even notice lower productivity on your part - your productivity may have been just fine for your collaborators. Consider the "impostor syndrome".) It's better to work on your issues than to explain them.

Good luck!

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