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World’s largest-ever mental health lesson held in London

More than 500 pupils took part in the event at Hackney Empire, organised by poet Hussain Manawer, to set a new Guinness World Record.

A growing number of people are overcoming a fading stigma and learning to talk more openly about mental health these days. And this week saw school pupils from across the UK join the biggest conversation yet held on the subject.

An audience of 500 pupils aged 13 to 18 gathered at East London’s Hackney Empire for the world’s largest-ever mental health lesson, setting a new Guinness World Record.

Clinical psychologist Professor Til Wykes and poet Hussain Manawer (pictured above) organised the event to get teenagers thinking about mental health issues, help them get comfortable discussing them, and find the best ways of coping and reaching out for help.

Wykes said at least one in ten pupils will struggle with mental health problems at some point. “The main issue for me is to get people to understand that lots of people have mental health problems, and lots of young people have mental health problems,” she explained.

“Three-quarters of all mental health problems in adulthood begin before the age of 18. Because of that we want to raise awareness now, we want to help people get treatment early, and then they recover much faster and much better.”

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YouTube comedian Humza Arshad, Jordan Stephens of the Rizzle Kicks and singer Sinéad Harnett all performed at the groundbreaking event, hosted by 4Music presenter Maya Jama.

And Danny-Boy Hatchard, the actor who played Eastenders’ Lee Carter – a character that struggled with clinical depression in the soap – also spoke to pupils. “I would have this subject on the national curriculum, I have no idea why it’s not.”

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has championed a new approach to mental health, arguing it should be treated as a priority in the NHS, education system and in the sector dealing with homelessness.

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