MHAW BLOG: Professor Green on why mental health education should be taught in schools

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YOGADOO founder, Lucy Aston went to listen to musician Professor Green at his appearance at the Forum, as part of the Bath Festival.

The appreciation for the strong female role models who raised him, a potential career in politics, his love/hate relationship with social media and why mental health education should be on the school curriculum, were just some of the subjects Professor Green touched on last night, where he was speaking as part of the excellent Bath Festivals 70th anniversary programme.

Musician and Documentary maker, Professor Green – real name Stephen Manderson has become one of the most high-profile, celebrity campaigners on mental health issues.

Born in 1983 and raised on a Hackney Estate, Professor Green’s music career began with his album Alive Till I’m Dead in 2010 and saw him collaborate with Lily Allen and Example, amongst others. Having battled anxiety and depression from an early age, he has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of mental health issues, becoming a patron of the charity CALM and making a series of thought-provoking documentaries.

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Professor Green talked emotionally and fondly of his love, respect and gratitude for the incredibly strong women who raised him. His Nanny Pat and his Great Granny Edie, the latter with whom he credits with instilling his love of storytelling after he’d creep down in the early morning (before the cartoons had started on the TV) and cuddle under his Gran’s blue blanket and listen to her stories.

In recent times, Green’s love for story telling has seen him side step into documentary making, with his most recent Channel 4 documentary, Working Class White Men and the first, “Suicide and Me” where he addresses his father’s suicide, which he says he still hasn’t been able to watch back. “It was never really supposed to be about my story” “But you have to make yourself vulnerable to be able to experience anything properly”.  “It’s important that I walk into the story without a preconceived idea with the direction it will go in. I refused to work with one Director who had a set idea on the arc the documentary should take. But I need to let it unfold naturally, otherwise what’s the point?”

But you have to make yourself vulnerable to be able to experience anything properly.
— - Professor Green

Professor Green spoke openly and honestly about his Dad’s suicide and how it has taken him through a range of emotions through his life, and why hope and forgiveness is so important to recovery. What would you want your father to say to you if he was here in the room right now? “Sorry” – came the answer. One particularly emotional moment was where Green spoke about a dream he’d had in the last year or so, where he’d woken in floods of tears. “In the dream, I was flying a kite and the wind was really strong, I heard my dad’s voice really clearly say ‘What are you holding on for, it’s easier to let go’ it was amazing to hear him say those words.” Green is also a proud patron of CALM, The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) which is leading a movement against male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

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It’s Mental Health Awareness week, and with the work YOGADOO does in schools, what does he think about the state of the nation’s children’s mental health?

“Mental Health was never discussed when I was at school. Not once. Mental Health Education should become part of the curriculum, the earlier it becomes part of a discussion for children the better. Kids are like sponges, they’re inquisitive. Education is key to solving the mental health epidemic. If we placed the same importance on teaching our kids empathy, as we do numeracy, the world would be a much better place.”

"It's crucial that young people find a way to express themselves, that helps when they are bottling things up, rap and music were my releases."

Education is key to solving the mental health epidemic. If we placed the same importance on teaching our kids empathy, as we do numeracy, the world would be a much better place.
— Professor Green

“Fight or Flight now means our connection with our phone or social media, we need to teach these kids coping mechanisms. The internet is producing whole new types of mental health challenges, new kinds of anxiety and depression.”

“I get scared sometimes when I check my phone usage, it’s crazy… I get my friends to check and we can’t believe how much we’ve used our phones in a week. I need a detox. There’s a really hostile environment online, we shouldn’t have access to that number of people, it’s like a firing range sometimes.”

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One audience asked him, with his qualities of “transparency, trust, passion, with a social conscience, would he ever consider a career in politics?”

He answered “I hate politicians”….  So that wasn’t a No. “The scrutiny would be terrifying” he added, “I just want to make rap music”

So the message is, VOTE GREEN (This was a joke from the brilliant presenter Max Porter), but I actually think many of us would.

Professor Green's book, "Lucky" is available now.