“The Stuart Low Trust is a wonderful lifeline” – #SmallCharityWeek

Stuart Low was a young Islington man who sadly took his own life in 1997 after failing to find the help he needed to cope with schizophrenia. His death prompted local people to form the Stuart Low Trust (SLT). Their aim was to create social therapeutic activities for vulnerable, local people.

The stigma around mental health

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives and the stigma around mental illness means people feel alone, ashamed and judged. For some people, this could bring a risk of withdrawal and suicidal ideation.

The Stuart Low Trust exists to address these challenges. Founded in 1999 by Islington residents, the Stuart Low Trust (SLT) is a small charity dedicated to supporting adults in Islington who experience mental health challenges and social isolation. Benefitting 1,000 participants per year, they provide over 200 free, socially therapeutic art, nature and wellbeing activities. The activities aim to build participants’ confidence, skills and sense of community in a supportive, welcoming and non-judgemental environment.

“A wonderful lifeline”

SLT believes the approach is unique and effective given its focus on accessibility, inclusivity, and community. Their activities, which are open to anyone, run out of hours on evenings and weekends throughout the year when people are particularly lonely. Across their work, they aim to reduce stigma associated with mental ill-health including running activities in mainstream nature and arts settings and raising awareness of the challenges of mental health both online and offline.

Participants consistently report feeling more positive, engaged, and connected, with many describing the activities as better than traditional therapies. One participant called SLT a “wonderful lifeline” and others describe SLT as vital community builder, offering a range of activities that positively impact mental and physical wellbeing.

“I love SLT trips / walks / visits. These great visits have a positive effect on my mental health. Better than drugs or counselling. ” – Nature visit March 2024

Overcoming challenges

SLT faces a multitude of challenges as a small charity compared to major charities with household name brand recognition and a back-office team of fundraisers and staff covering HR, ICT to legal compliance. Mark, Chief Executive at SLT shares some examples of how SLT works through the challenges of being a small charity.

  • We build long-term relationships with local and City of London companies who can provide funds, pro bono expertise and volunteer assistance. We benefit from help through the Big Alliance as a broker for some of these relationships. We work with local supermarkets and food shops to pick up surplus food donations for our events.
  • We work in partnership with other charities and community organisations as a core approach to service delivery, complementing our staff expertise and capacity.
  • We raise our profile and more funds by going the extra mile – recently by our staff writing and producing a Christmas single with professional help from a music industry business leader.

“Recovering from severe anxiety episodes, I cannot begin to tell you how much confidence & happiness I have gained from SLT.” ~ Monday Meet-up January 2024

Monday meet-up cafe, Stuart Low Trust

Small charities, big impact

This Small Charity Week, Islington Giving and our parent charity Cripplegate Foundation, will be sharing stories of the incredible small charities we work with in Islington. We invite you to get involved and show your love for small charities this week and beyond.

Here are 3 simple actions you can take:

1. Join us and/or share this story on LinkedIn – use #LoveYourSmallCharity and #SmallCharityWeek so we can find you!

2. Sign up to our e-newsletter for the latest opportunities, events and stories

3. Volunteer, donate or fundraise to support your local community