Robert Geleit Mayor of Epsom 2023-2024 at The Derby

Council unaware it was Mental Health Awareness Week?


Former Epsom and Ewell Mayor Rob Geleit (Labour Court) has accused the Council of removing references to his schizophrenia from his final speech. Cllr Geleit argues that the action reflects prejudice against mental health issues and constitutes improper censorship. The occasion was the Annual Mayor making meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday 14th May. Notably this was during Mental Health Awareness Week

In an interview with the Epsom and Ewell Times, Mr Geleit revealed that he had planned to end his speech by saying, “It has been an honour and privilege to serve as The Worshipful The Mayor Cllr Rob Geleit for the past year. Schizophrenia or no schizophrenia. If you are all up for it, perhaps we could vote me in for another year?”

However, this section was removed. Mr Geleit stated that he was informed of the change by Mr Piero Ionta, Head of Legal and Monitoring Officer, prior to the meeting.

Mr Geleit added that he had already mentioned his schizophrenia in his acceptance speech when he was made Mayor. He stated he believes that while the visibility of mental health issues has improved, chronic mental health problems remain a taboo subject.

He was not particularly surprised by this, as he has become accustomed to such situations. However, he is now working with his leadership team to file a formal complaint against the conduct of a council officer. He hopes the complaint will result in an apology and assurances that such incidents will not happen again.

In response to these allegations, a council spokesperson stated, “In the course of preparing for council meetings where the Mayor will make a speech, it is the normal course of business for officers and the Mayor to discuss speech content, and for officers to offer any advice and guidance, which is what happened on this occasion. Officers do not decide on any changes to the speech, they purely advise, and it is the Mayor’s ultimate decision on whether to act on the advice. Officers do not recognise the conversation had in this instance as being reflective of the allegation that has been made.”

The council also further emphasised its commitment to mental health issues: “The council is aware that poor mental health is a big challenge for many of our residents. As a result, the council has made mental health the top priority in our work with our NHS colleagues in the Epsom and Ewell Neighbourhood Board. We also have a cohort of trained Mental Health First Aiders within the council to assist and support our own staff and councillors.”

Councillor Chris Ames (Labour Court) expressed strong disapproval of the incident, stating, “The removal of the reference to schizophrenia was a shocking and wholly outdated expression of the type of stigma and prejudice that many of us have worked to move on from. It was also totally outrageous censorship of an elected official who has served the Borough with dignity and distinction during his year as Mayor.”

Despite these challenges, Mr Geleit remains confident and hopeful about the future. He revealed that he will continue to contest for the West Ewell Division of Surrey County Council and that his experience as Mayor has inspired new ambitions to join Parliament.

Image – Cllr. Robert Geleit at the Derby when Mayor of Epsom and Ewell.

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