Real Deal vs Frankie PhraserThe recent ‘Speak Up’ event at London’s Fire venue was held in honour of discussing mental health themes in the form of rap battles. It was designed by mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change and LADbible, to encourage young people to be more open about mental health and included top talent including Klashnekoff, Madness, Bamalam, Tony D, Real Deal, and Chilla Jones.

Hosted by Rap6, ‘Speak Up’ was held to open up the conversation about mental health among a youth audience. The artists involved rapped openly about mental health and how to be a supportive friend, touching on their own experiences along the way. The battles covered a range of topics from the pressures of social media, to what it’s like to experience depression, to rapper Tony D confronting his own experiences in a powerful mirror battle with himself.

Bobby RexTony D wanted to support the event because he “went through some stuff personally and it had been building up for so long. If you have a concern about a friend, broach that, in a comfortable surrounding. Maybe they’re not prepared to unload at that point but it will let them know that someone cares, that someone is prepared to listen. Just let them know ‘I’m at the end of the phone or a text message, if you want to meet up for a coffee, then my ear is open.’ We all have those friends and we wonder ‘is everything ok’? Go and ask – if they’re anything like me they might tell you they are fine but they’ll know someone cares and if they ever need to get something off their chest then you’re there.

The ‘Speak Up’ event formed part of Time to Change’s latest ‘Ask Twice’ campaign. New research released by Time to Change reveals that when asked, 88% of young people (16-24) would tell friends and family they are ‘fine’, even if struggling with a mental health problem. To tackle this Time to Change is urging people to ‘Ask Twice’ if a friend says they are fine but they suspect otherwise. The campaign says the simple act of asking again, with interest, shows a genuine willingness to talk and listen.

The statistics show that many young people are afraid to answer honestly when asked how they are. ‘Speak Up’ has been designed to encourage young people to be more open and supportive when it comes to mental health by bringing these issues to life through battle rap.

Boston Wyatt attended the event. Aged 18, she has a diagnosis of OCD and experiences panic attacks. She said, “The rap battles were really emotive. It was so great to be at an event with so many other young people listening to and talking about mental health so openly and honestly. Hearing so many people talk about their own mental health problems in such a passionate, outspoken way was really inspiring. It made me feel I could relate to everyone in the room and it was such a strong reminder that mental health problems can affect anyone.

Find out more about Time to Change.