A mental health charity based in the London borough has said Islington is in a “crisis of social isolation”.
The Stuart Low Trust said the area had the “highest rate of serious mental health problems” in the capital.
It cited local deprivation, dense population and lack of green space as the reason.
It said the charity had identified a gap in local services and was working to provide easily accessible support.
Locking “like an isolation cell”
Speaking to the BBC anonymously, one confidante service user explained how she suffered from depression and anxiety, especially when she was sheltering alone during the pandemic.
He said being locked up was like “in solitary confinement”, adding: “It felt extremely lonely. I felt very anxious.” He also described suicide.
Through his general practitioner, he was referred to a social prescription link worker which connected him to the Stuart Low Trust.
He told the BBC that the activities offered allowed him to meet people to whom he could be “honest” about his mental health condition.
She said the social opportunity offered by the charity “lifts my spirits”, adding that it was important to be able to put dates in her diary to “have something to look forward to”.
Charity offers access to safe spaces and community activities with a focus on art, nature and well-being. It is open to people from outside Islington as well as residents.
It said that events were organized during Christmas to prevent people from being alone.
The foundation’s chief executive, Mark Gillham, told the BBC he believed there were “shortcomings” in mental health support in Islington and London.
He said: “You often have to meet quite complex criteria to be able to get an NHS service.”
Gillham added: “The Stuart Low Trust’s approach, on the other hand, is that we are 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 isolated people feel the most isolated”, adding that the charity helped around 1,000 people a year, with 89 per cent reporting improved mental health and wellbeing.
The NHS figures show:
- Around one in six (30,000) adults in Islington suffer from depression, anxiety or both
- Almost 4,000 people in Islington suffer from a serious mental health condition
However, the increased demand for the charity’s services has put a strain on trust in some activities will be reduced.
The charity has told users of the service that this is a temporary problem and is hoping to raise funds by releasing a Christmas single, Guiding Star.
It said revenue from the single it could be used to help the 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 just want Christmas to go away.
“So one of our goals is to bring people together during this time so they have somewhere 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, said in a statement: “Our core services cover all mental health needs and have received significant investment over the last three years, enabling us to offer an even higher quality , shared care and support for residents across north central London, whatever their needs.
“This is often available by self-referral, including for example our Talking Therapies service.
“The important thing is that our crisis services are available to anyone who needs them, again without a doctor’s 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 24/7 crisis line 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 closely with them.”
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