“Talking about mental health does not make you weak,” the world’s largest mental health lesson has been told. Til Wykes, a clinical psychologist, told an audience of more than 500 13-18-year-olds from around the country: “We want to get people to come to treatment early because if they come early, they recover faster and they recover better.”
The event on Tuesday at Hackney Empire in east London, compered by the 4Music presenter Maya Jama, was designed to teach children and young people about what mental health is, how to protect it and deal with problems when they arise. Officially recognised as the Guinness World Record for the largest-ever mental health lesson, with 538 young people present, the hope is that it also raises general awareness about the issue among young people and helps combat the stigma surrounding it.
There were gasps from the pupils as they heard one in 10 five-to-16-year-olds have mental health problems, amounting to 850,000 children, and 75% do not get the help they need.
Wykes, who works at King’s College London, told pupils that in a class of 30 that meant on average three would have mental health problems at some point – or possibly more as the current estimate of one in 10 is believed to be out of date – so they were all likely to be touched by the issue in some way.