Young Londoners were at the forefront of a virtual festival hosted by the Mayor of London’s Peer Outreach Team and Thrive LDN to mark World Mental Health Day 2020.
The virtual World Mental Health Day Festival programme was designed to support young people build resilience and promote positive wellbeing. The festival also aligned and coincides with Black History Month.
The festival initiative follows research that participation in creative arts and culture has been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing. The festival organisers have described this year’s event as ‘more important than ever before’.
Several panel discussions featured as part of the festival’s programme, covering topics such as culture, sport, social inequalities and creating a fairer society. In a pre-recorded interview, Sanah Ahsan, a community psychologist, award-winning poet and all-round disrupter, sat down with Jumoké Fashola, BBC radio presenter, journalist, vocalist and actor. In a powerful and intimate exchange, the pair explored how we can encourage vulnerability in our communities, especially breaking down the trope that women of colour must be strong or powerful. The conversation will be premiered as part of the festival’s programme.
The festival also featured a collection of pre-recorded spoken word, poetry and music recorded at London’s Young Vic theatre. The line-up included young artists such as Grime MC Laughta, who featured in BBC Three’s, Galdem Sugar, Rakaya Fetuga, winner of the Roundhouse Poetry Slam in 2018, and Woodzy, a Flo Poet who has reached close to a million views of his 90’s Baby poem.
Research has shown that young people (18-24 years old) were more likely to report stress arising from the pandemic than the population as a whole. Insights on mental health needs of young Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people using Kooth, a digital mental health support service, have shown greater increases in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts than white peers during COVID-19 pandemic. Thrive LDN partnered with Kooth for the festival’s first workshop.
The various discussions, workshops and performances offered a virtual platform for young people to discuss the challenges faced during COVID-19 and explore shared experiences of inequality and issues raised through the Black Lives Matter movement. Panel discussions and workshops asked young people what we can do collectively to overcome barriers and support one another.
Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London said: “The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on our mental health, so this World Mental Health Day it’s never been more important for us to look out for our health and to seek help should we need it. We know young people in particular have suffered during these uncertain times and I’m pleased that young Londoners have been the focus of London’s virtual World Mental Health Day festival. The importance of promoting positive wellbeing in this way cannot be overstated, and I urge all Londoners to join together, celebrate our diversity and help one another.”
Kamahl Miller and Queenie Chizea, both young Londoners and members of the Peer Outreach Team at City Hall, lead on the development of the event.
Kamahl said: “Too many young people are facing uncertainty – so much in the last six months has impacted our mental health and futures like nothing before. I’m pleased we have been able to put together an online festival which will provide a great opportunity for young people to share experiences, learn from each other and discover more about the support available in an entertaining way.”
Queenie added: “This year’s World Mental Health Day Festival is more important than ever before. The day will create an opportunity to tackle the stigma around mental health for young people and opens up conversations on breaking down barriers, building resilience and the importance of having a sense of community. It’s a great opportunity to also support London’s young artists, performers and content creators.”
The festival took place from midday on Saturday, 10 October. All the performances, panel discussions, any time content and virtual market place remains on the Thrive LDN website as a resource for Londoners to use beyond World Mental Health Day. Visit www.thriveldn.co.uk/wmhd2020.