Celebrities joined over 500 pupils on Tuesday to set the Guinness World Record for the largest ever mental health lesson.
4Music presenter Maya Jama, the girlfriend of grime artist Stormzy, hosted the event, which was attended by 538 schoolchildren from around Hackney.
Hussain Manawer, who will be the first British Muslim in space after winning a poetry competition, told the Hackney Post: “We’re over the moon to set this Guinness World Record. Growing up in this day and age can be difficult. Young people nowadays have new challenges to contend with like social media, body image and physical appearance and cyber bullying.
“If kids can go home from today and say ‘I set a world record on mental health’, it’s like, OK, I’m interested.”
The lesson was organised by Manawer andh Professor Dame Til Wykes, vice-dean at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.
In the lesson, the children were asked to hold up ‘true’ and ‘false’ cards in response to certain statements about mental health. For example, Professor Wykes told the children it was true that under two-fifths of people with mental health problems seek help.
The children were also encouraged to shout out reasons why someone might not want to tell their friends about a mental health problem. Answers included: “fear”, “bullying”, and “they might think I’m attention-seeking”.
Jordan Stephens from the band Rizzle Kicks performed a poem he had written about mental health.
The event also featured special guests including Jonny Labey and Danny Boy Hatchard from Eastenders, singer Sinead Harnett, and YouTube comedy sensation Humza Arshad – the man behind web series Diary of a Badman.
Professor Wykes, who gave the lesson itself, commented: “I think given that we do now know that three-quarters of mental health problems in adulthood start before age 18 – we really need to start paying attention to it in younger people.
“There probably haven’t been enough resources, but it’s not just a case of resources. It’s also about the stigma attached to mental health problems – people just don’t want to talk about them.”
— Maya Jama (@MayaJama) March 21, 2017
Video messages of support came in from Piers Morgan, Susanna Reid, Holly Willoughby, Phillip Schofield, Matthew Wright and Gary Lineker.
No record had been set for world’s largest mental health lesson before, and so Guinness had set the bar at 400 people being present and fully engaged in a lesson lasting 30 minutes. Manawer and Wykes have tried to break the record once before, falling short when one school failed to turn up.
On this occasion, however, they took no chances, and exceeded the required number by 138.