A WOOLWICH teen was chosen to perform his poignant poem at the high profile Guinness world record attempt for the largest mental health lesson.
Samuel Campbell from Shooters Hill Sixth Form College performed his work at the event led by poet, astronaut-in-training and mental health campaigner Hussain Manawer and Professor Dame Til Wykes from King’s College Institute of Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience which is attached to the Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell.
The 17-year-old was watched by his classmates, who have been enthusiastically embracing the sixth form college’s work to get students talking about mental health issues, at the event in Hackney Empire. Samuel’s poem highlighted how desperate financial circumstances and loss of a loved one can leading to thoughts of suicide. Mr Manawer asked Samuel to perform his work at the high profile event when he gave a talk to students at Shooters Hill Campus last December. It was the winning entry in the college’s competition for student’s to write a speech about what mental health means to them.
More than 500 schoolchildren, including many from South London packed the record attempt event on Tuesday(21) which covered depression, stigma, where to get help and how to maintain good mental health. It was hosted by 4Music presenter Maya Jama and featured guests including Jonny Labey and Danny Boy Hatchard from EastEnders, Jordan Stephens from Rizzle Kicks, singer Sinead Harnett and face of YouTube Humza Arshad. Video messages of support came from Piers and Susanna from ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Holly and Phil from ITV’s This Morning, Matthew Wright from Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff; Gary Lineker from BBC1’s Match of the Day and ITV London News’ Nina Hossein.
Guinness World Records adjudicator Pravin Patel confirmed that 538 people attended the 30 minute lesson which exceeded the record by 138.
Mr Manawer, said: We’re over the moon to set this 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. Mental health education is crucial to help many get through the early stages of their life and I am a great believer in this being put on the national syllabus.”
Rukshana Begum, an English teacher at Shooters Hill Sixth Form College in Red Lion Lane, told The Mercury “The college helped to set a new world record and Samuel’s performance was
epic, flawless and mind-blowing. Hussain attended an event at the college last December. We had set a competition for students to write a speech in mental health and what it meant to them. Many students wrote about their personal struggles and it was an emotional day. Hussain was so impressed with Samuel’s poem he asked him to perform it at the record attempt.
She said: “The work is to raise awareness of mental issues as people don’t talk about it enough. When Hussain came he spoke to the students as if a friend. He inspired them to talk about their experiences- he really appealed to them. He encouraged the students to reach out to other people to help them with problems. There are a lot of issues for young people from bullying, stigma ,pressures from gang and drug culture, sexuality and broken homes.”
Samuel Campbell told The Mercury: “The event with Hussain inspired me to write the poem – it provided a platform for everyone to talk about how they feel. There are so many different factors that can affect mental health and emotions including financial struggles and for young people there are pressures from the street and from parent’s expectations. Encouraging people to talk about their problems with others is really important – it can be like a weight lifting of your chest.
The 17-year-old, who is planning to study medicine at university, said: “I have been writing poems and performing them since I was seven but I still do get a bit of stage fright.”
David Orelaja, a BTEC science student told The Mercury: “The event was very important as it got everyone talking about mental health issues. It was the first opportunity I have had as mental health was never ever spoken about at school. There are a lot of issues for young people around sexuality and around where they belong. Its great to be able to talk about it by people who to understand – Its hard for teenagers to talk to their parents sometimes as they fear how they might judge them.
Its absolutely vital that young people can talk about mental health issues – many face bullying and they just don’t know where to turn. I really enjoyed the event when Hussain came to the school. – he is a really good person and speaks from his heart.”
Professor Dame Til Wykes, said: ‘ Mental ill health affects everyone and we know that most adult mental health has its roots in childhood and adolescence. We want to empower and educate young people to know how to manage their mental health. Just as importantly we want to raise awareness and so help to reduce stigma and enable young people to provide support to others. It is often the stigma and discrimination which prevents young people getting treatment early and we know that the earlier you get treatment the faster is recovery. Mental health should be on the curriculum to ensure this happens.’
She told The Mercury the lesson is being followed up with a survey. She said: “We are asking children at secondary schools to tell us what sorts of issues we need to research.”
She said: “I am daring anyone to try and break our record. That way we can get even more young people to understand mental health problems, the effects of stigma and the support young people can access. Most is not rocket science but bringing children into the conversation is really important.”
The event was supported by the Hackney Empire, the Samaritans and Atelier Works.