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Hussain Manawer
Andy Parsons

A poet and a professor are trying to stage the world’s biggest mental health lesson in Hackney

James Manning

Along with toxic air and the housing crisis, mental illness is one of the biggest challenges facing young Londoners as they grow up in the city. One man who’s determined to do something about it is Ilford-raised poet, campaigner, YouTuber and astronaut-in-training Hussain Manawer. He’s joined forces with Professor Dame Til Wykes, senior psychologist at King’s College London, to deliver what should be a record-breaking class about mental health on March 21.

The Hackney Empire will host 600 young people from schools across the UK (plus celeb guests) for the event, which aims to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest mental health lesson ever staged. It’ll last 90 minutes and address topics like depression, stigma and how to look after your mental health, including a 20-minute poetry set by Manawer.

The poet previously attempted to set the record in Ilford in October, but fell short by 75 participants. (Students have to remain engaged throughout and mobile phones are not allowed.) Next year Manawer will go in to space as Britain’s first Muslim astronaut, so he’s a busy guy. We wish him all the best for his second crack at the record.

‘My grandparents came to England in the ’60s. Now I’m going into space!’: read more about Hussain Manawer’s story.

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