Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Social workers-Mental health, Stigma (Social psychology), Self-disclosure-Psychological aspects, Mental illness, Mental health


The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of disclosure in the workplace among social workers with mental health issues with a particular focus on the catalysts of coming out, whether stigma inhibits disclosure, and the perceived social and emotional benefits and costs of coming out. Due to the sensitive nature of the research topic, an anonymous online survey was used. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, mental health questionnaire, and a researcher-designed Outness Inventory. Thirty-six clinical social workers with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual diagnoses participated in the study, 21 of whom reported being out to someone at work about some aspect of their mental health. Of the participants who were out, 75% or more endorsed feeling supported by coworkers, feeling closer personally to coworkers, and being better able to perform as a clinician. Stigma of mental illness appeared to be the largest barrier to disclosure of mental illness in the work place. Given the benefits of being out for the clinician, client, and community, it is imperative that the social work profession be committed to decreasing the stigma of mental illness. Social contact theory suggests that one way to do so would be to increase the visibility of social workers with mental health diagnoses within the work setting.




49 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 36-39)