Sadiq Khan defends openness about mental health

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The Mayor of London has defended his decision to speak openly about his mental health during the coronavirus pandemic – saying it would “irresponsible and dishonest” to ignore it.

Sadiq Khan said real leadership is about “representing people and giving voice to their feelings”, not being an “alpha male who constantly seeks to parade their virility”.

It comes after the Mayor shared his struggles during Covid-19 lockdown in an interview with the Sunday Times magazine last month.

Mr Khan said lockdown has taken a toll on his mental wellbeing and admitted he “felt fragile” and was not always able to provide the leadership London needed during the crisis.

But now he has defended his decision to speak out, and vowed to keep talking about the issue.

“None of us are superhuman: we all have our good days and our bad days,” Mr Khan told the London Assembly.

“This is especially true in the middle of a pandemic, when we’re all finding it tough and we’ve all had to make huge sacrifices to save lives – from staying indoors and working from home to limiting outdoor exercise and interactions with friends, family and loved ones.

“I make no apology for acknowledging the toll that has had on Londoners’ mental health including my own.”

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But Conservative Assembly member Tony Devenish questioned Mr Khan’s decision to keep working despite the pressure he was under.

Mr Devenish applauded the Mayor for “having the guts” to speak publicly about his mental health.

But Mr Khan should have considered handing over to a deputy if he wasn’t coping with the strain of the pandemic, he suggested.

The Mayor said assuming mental ill health makes someone unfit to work is “one of the reasons there is stigma” on the subject.

“The reality is I’ve not taken time off because I’ve not needed to,” he said.

“None of us need to always medicalise our physical ailments and similarly we don’t need to always medicalise our mental ailments – but talking about it can be a big way of addressing (stigma).”

Mr Khan said it would be ridiculous to expect him to share with the Assembly every time he was “feeling a bit poorly”.

“We’re all human. We all have days when we’re not firing on all cylinders,” he added.

“But I can say with confidence that I don’t think there’s been a single day during this crisis when this administration and my team hasn’t provided the leadership London needs.”

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