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The Wolfpack Project: Founder Damien Reynolds on Tackling Loneliness in People aged 16-35

29 September 21 words: Lizzy O’Riordan

Founded by Damien Reynolds during the pandemic, The Wolfpack Project are dedicated to tackling loneliness in people from ages 16-35. The charity supports young people in Nottingham with their mental health, and aims to break the stigma for young people experiencing loneliness…

Young people aren’t often associated with loneliness, but as we speak to Alex from The Wolfpack Project it becomes evident that youth loneliness is a rising issue. “It was a growing problem even before the pandemic,” Alex says, “but coming out of the other side, figures have pretty much doubled.” This is particularly true of new university students who were forced to complete their first year online. “They didn’t get the experience that they were hoping for,” Alex explains. “Lots of them weren’t able to see their families either and found themselves completely alone.”

This is why Damien Reynolds decided to found The Wolfpack Project in 2019, as a response to growing statistics around youth loneliness. The aim being to “set up a variety of social groups for young people to help them get out of the house, make new friends and improve their social skills.”

Often mental health isn’t taken seriously in young people, with symptoms like insomnia and apathy being branded as laziness. “There's a massive lack of understanding for young people and the way they function,” Alex tells me, with many adults proposing the ‘pull your bootstraps up’ approach. Rather, he proposes we need to have “empathy to know that not everyone works the same” and to provide spaces where young people can reach out. This is especially important when it comes to neurodivergent young people, Alex says. “We get a lot of young people who are autistic or have ADHD, many of which have grown up being labelled as difficult.”

Often mental health isn’t taken seriously in young people, with symptoms like insomnia and apathy being branded as laziness

The feedback from service users has been positive: “For a lot of them, even leaving their house is a big step and doing that a couple times a month is really helpful to them.” Alex is excited to tell us that the young people involved are starting to form friendships independently of the group, “Which is really the point of the project, for young people to come along, but ultimately not to need us.”

Looking to the future, The Wolfpack Project are hoping to expand. Right now, they focus on the city centre but hope to eventually cover all of Nottinghamshire, and then set up in other cities across the UK. First though, they aim to do more outreach in the form of support groups for schools, alongside groups for ex-offenders.

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