Islington is facing a “crisis of social isolation”, says a mental health charity in the London borough.
The Stuart Low Trust said the area had “the highest rate of serious mental health problems” in the capital.
It cites local deprivation, dense population and lack of green spaces as some of the reasons why.
It said the charity had identified a gap in local services and was working to help provide easily accessible support.
Lockdown ‘like solitary confinement’
Speaking to the BBC anonymously, one user of the trust’s service explained how she had developed depression and anxiety, particularly as she was fending for herself during the pandemic.
He said the lockdown was like being in “solitary confinement”, adding: “I felt very lonely. I felt very anxious.” He also described feeling suicidal.
By his GP, he was referred to a social prescribing link worker which connected him to the Stuart Low Trust.
He told the BBC that the activities on offer allowed him to meet people with whom he could be “honest” about his mental health condition.
She said the social opportunity provided by the charity “encourages me”, adding that it was important to be able to put dates in her diary so “there is something to look forward to”.
The charity offers access to safe spaces and community activities focused on art, nature and well-being. It is open to people outside of Islington as well as residents.
It said events are being run over the Christmas period to prevent people from being alone.
Trust CEO Mark Gillham told the BBC he felt there was a “service gap” when it came to mental health support in Islington and across London.
He said: “You often have to fulfill quite complex criteria to be eligible for an NHS service.”
Mr Gillham added: “Stuart Low Trust’s approach, on the other hand, is either a drop-in service, or they just have to fill in a short registration form.”
He said it was particularly important to support people out of hours, “when you can imagine people being isolated, feeling most isolated”, adding that the charity helps around 1,000 people a year with 89% reporting improved mental health and well-being.
NHS figures show:
- Around one in six (30,000) Islington adults have depression, anxiety or both
- Almost 4,000 people in Islington are living with a serious mental illness
The increased demand for charitable services has put the trust under financial pressure, however, in some activities lowered.
The charity has told users of the service that this is a temporary problem, and it hopes to raise funds with the release of a Christmas single, Guiding Star.
It said proceeds from the single will enable it to help those who are isolated.
Speaking about Christmas, Mr Gillham said: “If you’re isolated, it can be one of the most painful times of the year, and you really want Christmas to go away.
“So one of our goals is to bring people together during this time, so they have something to go to.”
The North London Mental Health Partnership, which includes Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, said in a statement: “Our core services cover the full range of mental health needs and has received significant investment over the past three years, enabling us to offer higher quality, integrated care and support to residents in north central London, regardless of their level of need.
“This is often available through self-referral, including for example our Talking Therapies service.
“Importantly, our Crisis Services are available to anyone who needs them, again without a GP referral, 365 days a year and 24 hours a day.
“These include two crisis houses in Islington, our mental health crisis assessment center and our round-the-clock crisis lines on 0800 917 3333.
“Our formal and informal partnerships with the charity and voluntary sector are invaluable; they complement our services and we will continue to work with them.”
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