Sadiq Khan says he has PTSD caused by death threats

Sadiq Khan says he has PTSD caused by death threats thumbnail

Sadiq Khan has said he has been left with mental trauma due to a combination of the regular death threats he receives as London mayor, as well as dealing with the aftermath of disasters and terror attacks.

In an interview with the Guardian, Khan described it as a “cumulative” type of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while stressing he was not equating it to the PTSD endured by refugees or people who had faced similar experiences.

Khan, who will fight for a third term as mayor next year and said he hoped to serve multiple more times, also set out the toll that Covid had placed on his mental health, saying he “lost my mojo” during lockdown.

“I didn’t have clarity of thinking. I wasn’t so sparky. I wasn’t inspiring my team,” he said.

Such is the level of threat against Khan since he became mayor in 2016, all the more so after being attacked on Twitter by Donald Trump, he described his round-the-clock security as being “the same level of protection the prime minister and the king receive”.

He said the threats had affected his mental health, along with dealing with the aftermath of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire and terror attacks in London.

Khan said he had concluded he was experiencing a “cumulative” version of PTSD, saying a friend who is a doctor had told him this was the case.

“By the way, I’m not comparing what I am going through to some of the stuff people go through – as a lawyer my clients with PTSD were asylum seekers and refugees,” he said. “I would never give equivalence to what I am going through. Nor would I ever want people to feel sorry for me. I’m very privileged to do the job I do.

“By the way, if this means I’m a snowflake, so be it, right? Mental health is fragile if it’s not looked after. And I shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.”

Khan also talked about housing, and said that due to London’s shortage of reasonably priced housing, his grown-up daughters were still living at home.

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Khan, who has prioritised the construction of affordable homes, said: “If I was speaking to you 20 years ago, I’d be saying … I’m worried about cleaners and bus drivers not being able to live in London. Now it’s nurses, doctors, teachers.

“My children have finished their degrees and are living at home. By 2030, one in three 30-year-olds will still be living with their mum and dad. I love my kids but I want them to leave at some stage, right? So we’ve got to fix the housing crisis. I was 24 when I bought my first home. That’s unthinkable now.”

Saying his ultimate ambition would be to serve six terms, Khan said this would allow him to create a city “that can have our children feeling they have a future rather than being worried about what the future holds”.

Khan, who is very likely to face a Conservative candidate who will pledge to scrap his imminent expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone air quality scheme, has written a book about pollution and the wider climate emergency.

Conceding that his pre-mayoralty environmental record as a Labour MP was at best mixed – he voted for a third Heathrow runway and drove a Saab convertible and then a Land Rover – Khan said a factor behind his conversion was developing asthma as an adult.

He said: “If I got asthma by running in the city, how many people don’t realise they are stuck with breathing nitrogen oxide? You can’t see it, but it’s damaging every cell and organ.

“If you and I were speaking in the 19th century, we would smell the great stink. Then last century the great smog led to thousands of deaths. The problem is, you can’t see or smell today’s air pollution.”