CONCERNS have been raised about the number of council staff in Flintshire who have been off work because of mental health related issues.

Newly released figures show Flintshire Council’s 4,635 full time equivalent staff took an average of over ten days worth of sickness absence in the last year.

It compares to just under nine days in the previous 12 months.

The number one cause was a combination of stress, depression and anxiety, followed by musculoskeletal problems.

The local authority’s chief executive said he was worried about the rising prevalence of mental health conditions among council workers, and said extra support was being put in place.

Colin Everett said in some cases staff were living in poverty despite being in work, and have been directed towards financial support as a result.

Family bereavement was also highlighted as another prevalent example where people are facing difficult circumstances.

Speaking at a meeting of backbench councillors in Mold on Thursday, June 13, Mr Everett said: Whilst we can’t talk about individual cases, there are cases I’ve dealt with where people have been dealing with family bereavement.

“There have also been cases where people are actually in in-work poverty.

“We deal with a number of cases and some are very sensitive.

“There is more of a legitimacy now for people to express, report and deal with mental health issues.

“It’s a positive thing in society, but perhaps it’s impacted more on figures.”

Senior officers said the figures reflected the pattern seen across other local authorities in Wales.

They added that the council proactively raises awareness of mental health issues among its workforce.

One member of Flintshire’s corporate resources scrutiny committee asked whether the data could be broken down by gender.

Cllr Richard Jones said he felt depression was a problem which particularly affected men.

He said: “Between the ages of 25 and 45, suicide is the biggest cause of death for men.

“I’m not suggesting that women aren’t affected by this, but I know men are particularly affected by this kind of stress.

“I don’t know whether this percentage can be split into men and women.

“It might show something that we haven’t considered.”

Officers said the council was working with Mind Cymru to try and improve mental health support.

Meanwhile, they have also spoken to employees to find out whether their issues were work related or concerned with their personal lives.

Sharon Carney, Flintshire’s senior manager for human resources and organisational development, said in most cases it stemmed from personal problems.

She said: “Occupational health have done a breakdown and when they meet those who are referred, they’ll try and establish whether it’s work related stress or personal.

“It’s a really important distinction for us and what they’re reporting is that on the whole most individuals they talk to are dealing with things going on outside of work.

“Quite often, something which on the face of it seems trivial in work can be the thing that tips them over.

“Rather than reinvent the wheel, we are using Mind action plans because they’re proving to be very effective.”