Changes to local councils in Dorset over the coming year is likely to cause more stress for council staff – according to Cabinet member for the workforce, Peter Wharf.

The senior councillor admits that there will be a lot more stress at council offices across the county for the next year or more.

But he says that councils have the means to help and people should not be frightened to talk about their anxieties – either to friends, colleagues, or their managers.

Mr Wharf took time on Monday morning to chat to staff arriving at County Hall at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

He said: “We are at the moment in a situation where many of the employees in this building and elsewhere, around the whole of the county, are working more hours because they have got their daytime job, they’ve got special issues, and they have got issues moving forward to Local Government Reorganisation… so, yes, there is a lot more stress around and there will be for a year or so – and we need to be particularly careful to look after people whilst this is going on.”

Mr Wharf says local council managers across Dorset are trained how to spot and deal with mental health issues with the county council also running a counselling service for staff.

“We also try and be much more open about it than many other employers so that people don’t feel the stress than comes we something they don’t feel they can talk about.”

He says that council workers, like everyone else, should have no fears about talking about mental health issues because it is more common than many people believe.

“In people’s lifetimes over 50 per cent of the population suffer, at some time, from a period of mental stress or mental health issues – so it’s an issue which is much more important than people realise.

“There are a variety of mechanisms and strategies for helping people and what we are trying to do is make people more aware of the issues, remove any stigma; making sure managers understand they have a responsibility and give people a variety of suggestions as to how they might address any issues they are facing – that can include having chats with people, going out into a park for a walk, having lunch clubs, debating societies; all sorts of things to help people interact, socialise and recognise that, actually, nothing is more important than enjoying yourself.”