Islington, a borough in London, is facing a “crisis of social isolation” according to the Stuart Low Trust, a mental health charity in the area. The trust has identified Islington as having the “highest rates of serious mental health problems” in the capital. Factors such as local deprivation, high population density, and a lack of green spaces contribute to this issue. The charity is working to address the gap in local services by providing easily accessible support to those in need.
One service user, who wished to remain anonymous, shared her experience of depression and anxiety, particularly during the pandemic when she was shielding alone. She described lockdown as being in “solitary confinement,” which caused extreme loneliness and anxiety. She even experienced suicidal thoughts. However, through her GP, she was referred to a social prescribing link worker who connected her to the Stuart Low Trust. The activities offered by the charity allowed her to meet people with whom she could openly discuss her mental health condition. The social opportunities provided by the charity lifted her spirits and gave her something to look forward to.
The Stuart Low Trust offers access to safe spaces and community activities focused on arts, nature, and wellbeing. These services are available to both residents of Islington and those outside the borough. The charity also organizes events during the Christmas period to prevent people from feeling alone.
Mark Gillham, CEO of the trust, believes there is a significant gap in mental health support in Islington and across London. He emphasized that many NHS services have complex eligibility criteria, while the Stuart Low Trust is a drop-in service with a simple registration process. Gillham stressed the importance of supporting people during out-of-hours periods when isolation is most keenly felt. The charity assists around 1,000 people per year, with 89% reporting improved mental health and wellbeing.
Despite the increased demand for the charity’s services, it is facing financial strain, leading to the scaling back of some activities. However, the trust reassures service users that this is temporary and aims to boost funds through the release of a Christmas single, Guiding Star. The proceeds from the single will be used to support isolated individuals.
Mr. Gillham acknowledged that Christmas can be an especially painful time for isolated individuals and emphasized the importance of bringing people together during this period. The Stuart Low Trust aims to provide a sense of community and support for those who have nowhere else to go.
The North London Mental Health Partnership, which includes Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and Barnet, Enfield, and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, stated that they offer a range of mental health services and have received significant investment in recent years. They provide self-referral options, including their Talking Therapies service, as well as crisis services available 24/7 without a GP referral.
In conclusion, Islington is grappling with a crisis of social isolation, leading to high rates of serious mental health problems. The Stuart Low Trust is working to bridge the gap in local services by providing easily accessible support and community activities. Although financial strain has affected the charity, they are hopeful that their Christmas single will help raise funds to continue assisting isolated individuals. The North London Mental Health Partnership also offers a range of mental health services and emphasizes the value of partnerships with the charity and voluntary sector.