Health, disability & well-being

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000

Description

In 1997, Stuart Low, a young Islington man, sadly took his own life. He was living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and had failed to find the support he needed to cope. Stuart’s death prompted local people to form The Stuart Low Trust in 1999. Their aim was to create social therapeutic activities for vulnerable, local people. This was poignant, as Islington is the sixth most deprived borough in the UK, and its suicide rate is much higher than the national average.

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. Through social activities, the Trust supports people living with or recovering from mental illness, who are isolated, in despair, living in fear, homeless or in poverty. The stigma around mental illness means people feel alone, ashamed and judged. This brings a risk of withdrawal and suicidal ideation. The Trust exists to counter this downward spiral.

Importantly, most of the Trust’s activities take place out–of-hours in the evenings or at weekends, when people are at their lowest ebb and when there are few alternatives. It’s Friday Evening Socially Therapeutic Events run 52 weeks a year, including Christmas day and bank holidays. Currently, between 70 and 100 participants attend each week. They are welcomed with free, nutritious refreshments, followed by a presentation. Some presentations aim to inform on health issues e.g. a journey with personality disorder; living with bipolar disorder; sleep and its dysfunctions; compulsive hoarding. Others offer self help techniques e.g. how to boost your confidence; recipes to improve your health; mindfulness meditation. Friday evenings offer respite from social isolation and provide a sense of belonging and community in a non judgmental space. Comments and requests are fed back to the Trust via a short evaluation form. Participants can choose to attend every week or just drop in when they wish. Each Friday Evening Event costs £595. In 2014, 250+ participants attended on Friday evenings, over the year. “I love the sense of community. It’s such a crucial thing to our wellbeing”.

The Trust’s activities offer environments that build confidence and social skills. Most are run by a core group of 16 volunteers, providing over 2,000 hours per annum, with just two part time staff. There is an active, supportive and informed group of trustees. “Inclusiveness” and “working together” are core values. We welcome volunteers and attendees regardless of where they live or whether or not they have had a diagnosis of mental illness. Indeed people attend from as far afield as Lambeth, Enfield and Ealing, as they say there is nothing comparable available where they live. Over 1,000 people request to receive the bi-monthly events flyer. People have told the Trust even receiving the flyer in the post lifts their mood. “Sometimes just getting your activity flyer in the post keeps me alive”.

There is much, continued goodwill for the Trust in the local community, from partner organisations and funders. Recent external accolades include the London Health Commission award for Mental Well-being in 2010 and PQASSO accreditation in 2011. CTN, a media and communications company which works with many of the world’s largest brands, has chosen to make the Trust its charity of the year in 2014. The British Medical Journal has also chosen the Trust as its small charity of the year, for the next two years, 2014 and 2015.

The Stuart Low Trust has certainly built solid ground since its inception in 1999. It can be proud of its achievements. However, it is a small charity and its future depends on the generosity and support of extra charitable funders, such as Aviva Community Fund, for the good work to continue. With grateful, heartfelt thanks for your kind consideration.

“You saved my life twice without even knowing it”
“I arrived tentative but am leaving refreshed, hopeful, rejuvenated, deeply grateful and thankful".

The Stuart Low Trust

Moment of Pride

This project is unique. Seeing new people attend each week, being together, making friends, in a homely, friendly space, is such a simple thing, but the effects are far reaching. I have seen people's lives change for the better. They feel valued and cared for, no matter what their background.

Location: London