We’re working with charity The Wolfpack Project to help young people feel less lonely and socially isolated. Listen to this episode to find out more about the charity and its founder Damien, including his thoughts on why he decided to create The Wolfpack Project, how it brings people together and stories where they've been able to help those in need.
Sam: You're listening to The Money Pot, a channel that provides information on the world of finances, from savings accounts to mortgages and money saving ideas. We'll also have discussions about planning a better future and fraud awareness. Plus top tips from bloggers who talk about their home buying and financial experiences, interior inspiration and much more. My name’s Sam.
Ross: And I’m Ross and together we'll be chatting to industry experts who'll give you information to become a financial master.
Ross: Hello and welcome back to another episode of The Money Pot. Hi Sam, how are you?
Sam: I’m well, thank you, Ross. I've had another hair cut. You remember the last time we talked about me getting a hair cut, it seems like a lifetime ago. My hair grew back out again since then. And I've had it cut and it feels amazing. I don't want this podcast to just be me talking about haircuts every six months or whatever, but very happy to have shorter hair again, feeling much lighter, breezier, streamlined know.. aerodynamic.
Ross: It was long. It was definitely due.
Sam: Yes, it was, I was back to hat-wearing as a situation. Anytime I went out, my hair got too big in the wind. So now it's all under control. So in that sense, I'm much happier to be back with a fresh, fresh trim. How are you doing Ross?
Ross: Yes I’m also good. In fact, I'm better than good because we're just a few weeks away from the June 21st. Which is the date that will hopefully come out of all the restrictions in England. Gone forever, hopefully.
Sam: Hopefully fingers crossed, things may change.
Ross: It means remaining businesses will open including gigs and festivals, which I'm dead happy about. I can't wait for live music to return. I think I'm going to go to Rock City every single day to watch whoever is on just because I can and I've missed it that much.
Sam: You'll probably just move in though. And you'll just sleep on those sticky floors.
Ross: As strange as it sounds, I've missed the feeling of getting in, waking up the next morning, ears are still ringing. And that sound tells me that I've had a really good night.
Sam: I think people’s hearing might have recovered a lot from lockdown actually, because I do miss that ringing-ears feeling. It's been a long.
Ross: I’ve got a wedding as well in August, so restrictions will hopefully be lifted on that. There's no limit on social contact, and we’re edging closer to that important one that we all want, international travel. And in our last episode Sam, we spoke about you turning 30 and not being able to do too much to celebrate because of the restrictions. But since then the government roadmap step was approved. I think it was step three, which meant in that indoor hospitality reopened, cinemas reopened.. which you're a big fan of. I know you like your movies.. and the number of people that we could meet indoors and outdoors increased, which for me was huge just to get a bit of that freedom back. So have you managed to celebrate a little bit more for your 30th?
Sam: A little bit more. Well, I think as will be the case with a few people, we've kind of got a backlog in our family, at least, and in my friendship group as well. There's all sorts of celebrations I need to do, but if people who've had their birthdays in lockdown, I think my brother at one point thought, cause he turned 33 and so he suggested having a 33 and a third birthday later on, but then that didn't happen. So he said that his 33rd birthday didn't count, but he has since had his 34th birthday. So I don't know how old my brother is, but my family managed to have a nice meal and out together kind of ticking off all the boxes for celebrating together as a family and having a nice meal. So, yeah, managed to celebrate. Still in a small way, but at least we managed to get out, which is a really nice change.
Ross: That sounds nice. I hope to see you at Rock City once that's opened so we can celebrate together.
Sam: I’ll see you in the mosh pit Ross.
Ross: I don't know how you feel about this, but for me, seeing friends and family going for a meal, just generally getting outdoors is so good for my mental health, my physical wellbeing, and it helps me feel less lonely in what's been a very isolated year. Even when I take my dog for a walk, just to see her tail wagging, seeing that she's happy, improves my mood and helps me feel more relaxed.
Sam: Absolutely. The situation as it's been for the last year and a bit has definitely affected people's mental health. And it's an important thing to keep track of. And so these changes hopefully will be a boost to a lot of people and that's happened for me.
Ross: Absolutely, and like you say, I wondered if there's people out there who have struggled with lockdown and do need some support. So in today's episode, we thought we'd speak to the founder of the Wolfpack Project, which is a relatively new ambitious charity, supported by The Nottingham and Beehive Money, who are dedicated to reducing loneliness and social isolation amongst young adults in Nottingham, which they hope will broaden their support network and establish new friendships.
Sam: Sounds great. Let's get into it.
Sam: Welcome to The Money Pot Damien, first of all, could you tell us and our listeners a little bit more about yourself.
Damien: Yeah. So I'm. Damien Reynolds. I'm from Mansfield originally, but I live in Nottingham, have done for a few years and I work for a company that helps charities to fundraise. So that's kind of my day job, but I also work at the Wolfpack Project as well. In addition to that.
Ross: The Nottingham have partnered with the Wolfpack Project because they're an ambitious charity dedicated to reducing loneliness and social isolation amongst young adults. That's something that fits in well with our ethos. Could you explain what the Wolfpack Project is and what their goals are.
Damien: The Wolfpack Project supports younger people who are 16 to 35, and really it's younger people who are struggling with a mental health or they're lonely or isolated. So it's those younger people across knotting that actually just haven't been able to access the support they need.
Sam: And Damien, as the founder of the Wolfpack Project, can you tell us why you decided to create the charity in the first place?
Damien: So I decided to create the charity. So I got to a point where I was in my mid-thirties and I was quite isolated and I was finding that I was experiencing loneliness, but actually it was starting to affect my mental health and you know, those older connections that I had from school, college, old work colleagues, actually, I just wasn't seeing them anymore in the same way. And actually I wasn't staying connected. So I found despite the fact actually I'm an outgoing person. I found that it was isolated myself more and more, and it just wasn't a comfortable fit for me. And. I think in terms of kind of the friends and connections that I have and particularly family members I know a lot of younger people who feel exactly the same and there was a couple of individuals in particular that were around my age that sadly took their own life. So really those things came together and that's why I decided that I wanted to make a difference to young people's lives and actually give them the support that, you know, the family I have from the connection I have just haven't had.
Ross: And do you feel that the project has helped you just as much as you helped others?
Damien: Definitely. So I felt very connected with people that I otherwise just never would have had the opportunity to meet, some fantastic people. So I think on a personal level, it's actually been incredibly rewarding to be able to meet those people and give them the support they need. But actually I felt better connected. I felt closer to the community around me. And I've personally got a lot from that.
Ross: Damien do you think that feeling lonely affects your mental health?
Damien: I think loneliness can feel horribly isolating. So someone that experiences loneliness can feel as though they're on the road and no one actually cares about them. So the impact of loneliness on mental health itself, I think really impacts things like depression, social anxiety, but also a person's self-worth and self-confidence.
Sam: Through your experiences with the Wolfpack project, how else have you seen poor mental health affect people?
Damien: So mental health relates to our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. So it really affects how we think, feel and act, but it also determines how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices in life.
Ross: What are some of the longer term impacts you've seen? If people don't get the support they need with their mental health?
Damien: Poor mental health is linked with things like depression and social anxiety. However, it also affects our physical health. For instance, there's been a number of studies that show that poor mental health increases the risks of things like dementia and heart disease, but someone who experiences mental health issue typically finds it difficult to make friends, find relationship, maintain employment, but more broadly speaking, they feel as though they don't have a purpose in life and they often lack motivation as well.
Sam: Lots of us who might've felt all a degree of loneliness throughout the last year, given the situation, how do you feel that you would have coped throughout the pandemic if you didn't have the Wolfpack Project to keep you busy?
Damien: Well, I suppose I would have spent the last kind of 9 to 12 months watching nothing but Netflix, other video streaming services are available, but I would have just been kind of sat in and probably not seen anyone. And I think, you know, there's been so many people that have been in exactly that position. And I think that's definitely where I would have been. I would have been eating too much, not doing anywhere near enough exercise, which I probably don't do anyway, but I would have been, I must relate to myself more than ever. So without the Wolfpack Project, I would have been very much isolated, lonely myself.
Ross: And how does the project bring people together?
Damien: So when someone either contacts the service or they're referred to the service via the local authority or the charities. They are put in touch with either myself or another volunteer that actually has weekly check in telephone calls with them. We have virtual get togethers, actually throughout the pandemic as well. We have been doing face-to-face one-to-one support and also group work, small group work, in line with Government guidance. So there's a number of areas in that actually we've been supporting people, but really it's about providing a lifeline. So actually they've got someone to talk to and they're not just sat at home isolated and struggling on their own.
Sam: Throughout 2020, what have you done to support young adults?
Damien: And the support we've in giving is largely been via the telephone. So telephone check-ins every single week we've been having telephone calls with you and the people be setting up Zoom group chats as well. And also they've had the opportunity to be able to meet people face to face. So at our office in Sherwood, however, throughout the pandemic, we have encouraged volunteers and younger people that have contacted the charity to actually go out to meet in the open, you never in a park and go for a walk. So really kind of tie in the fitness aspect, but also the mental health aspect and being able to speak to someone and gain support that way as well.
Ross: That’s the thing isn't it, just getting out can change your mindset totally. Well, just getting outside the house and then seeing someone else is going to be really beneficial to people, I'm sure.
Damien: Definitely. And I think it's really those little interactions sometimes that may call the difference. I think when, you know, a lot of the younger people that we support have been at home and haven’t had anyone to speak to at all and actually just having someone ask them how they are, what have they been doing, is there anything that's worrying you, do you need any help with your mental health? Just those small interactions makes such a difference to someone that would otherwise just be totally isolated and have no one.
Sam: Are there any stories that really stand out of situations where you've been able to provide that help and support?
Damien: At the start of the pandemic there was one particular younger person who I know won’t mind if I share this story who was very, very close to taking his own life. So he'd been referred by a local authority and he was very, very close to taking his own life. And actually this was a young person that had been referred to mental health services and had never received any contact from them at all. So he very much felt as though he'd been let down by those statutory services that should have been there to support him.
So he came to the Wolfpack Project, having chosen, not to take his own life and to actually reach out to us in addition to that and what we did, we had a telephone call with him and we acted as a sounding board and I think, you know, the real difference was he had someone that he could talk to and confide in and actually share the concerns he had and that made such a difference to him. And even to this day, he says that the Wolfpack Project saved his life. And actually that really shows the difference that we make and it's incredibly humbling and empowering as well.
Ross: That is amazing. And how do you put people in contact together? Is it through similar stories or experiences?
Damien: So initially when we meet a younger person, we would meet them one to one to kind of understand where they are in life and actually what they'd like to achieve in terms of a milestone. So in terms of some younger people, actually, they may have been so isolated for a number of years, that quite a few users have been, and actually they're just not confident enough to be able to meet or the young people in a group. So it actually in that instance we continue to build their confidence, meet them one to one, but actually the ultimate aim is really to get younger people together in the group. And actually that could be
based on shared interests, whether that is they’re LGBTQ+, or they have a particular interest in terms of education or career. Actually, there were a number of areas where we tried to group people together based on common interest or common goals. So actually they can build those natural connections together.
Sam: Fantastic. The Wolfpack Project is just one of a number of charities that we've supported over the last 10 years as part of our community projects. Would you be able to share how the money that The Nottingham has donated helps and what that money is spent?
Damien: So we ran a campaign towards the end of last year to get younger people who didn't have the financial means to stay connected via technology with their friends and family, to be able to have tech. So we donated tech as part of a smaller project towards the end of last year with the Nottingham college. So when we approached the Nottingham Building Society, we wanted to expand that project. So the donation that we've received will go directly to support 35 younger people who otherwise just don't have the financial means to stay connected. And actually that's incredibly important for younger people. Particularly over the last year when they've actually been unable to see people face to face in the same way, but even now so, as they are able to see people face to face, many young people just don't feel ready to do that.
And actually this provides a tool for them to gain interactions with their friends and family by video calling. But not just that, with the tech that we're providing thanks to the donation, we're loading it up with mental health resources that will help them for years to come. So it's invaluable for them.
Ross: Today we have launched a campaign together. Could you explain a bit more about that and what can someone expect to see from that campaign?
Damien: So the campaign that we have running with The Nottingham is to really make younger people aware that actually they're not alone and we can give them help in terms of their career, or understanding their finances and actually understanding how they can get help and support around their feelings of loneliness and also their mental health as well. So the campaign is for the month of June and it focus on a number of areas to make sure that actually younger people can access, you know, all of those resources in a number of areas that are going to make tangible difference to the lives. So you can expect to see lots of things over the month of June. So there'll be a Q and A, so actually we can get younger people involved in actually asking those questions. And also in terms of podcasts and videos is going to be lots planned over the month that actually everyone can get actively involved with via Instagram page and The Nottingham.
Sam: The second week of June is loneliness awareness week, which ties in perfectly with what we've been discussing today. If someone listening would like to get in contact with the Wolfpack Project, how can they get in touch?
Damien: Younger people can get in touch with this us directly and via our website or our social media channels. So we're all over social media in terms of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, just reach out and we want to be there for them.
Ross: And what typically happens when someone does contact you, do they attend groups? Do they do it online or does each person have a different experience?
Damien: We're led by the people that come to us. So obviously people are comfortable with different things. So not everyone is comfortable in a social setting or in a group setting. So actually we're led by them and what they want to achieve and what type of support they want to get. So it could be one-to-one support. It could be group support and you know, it's not always necessarily face-to-face if actually someone just wants a telephone conversation on a weekly basis or a monthly basis, actually we do that based on their needs.
Sam: And what about those who don't live in Nottingham? Are they still able to get in contact with you or are there other charities that can help and support?
Damien: The Wolfpack Project just supports younger people within Nottingham currently. So on a national level, we would always sign post to organisations like Mind and Young Minds who we regularly make referrals to. But if we ever receive any contact from them, obviously we direct them, but they're more than welcome to follow our social media channels. I mean, we very often share mental health resources that actually they can benefit from, even if we can't support them direct.
Ross: And Damien mentioned the Mind charity there. Mind have been around for more than 60 years and have worked to improve the lives of people who've experienced mental health issues. They have around 125 local minds throughout the UK and each local Mind is an independent charity run by local people to support local people. Their range of services include supported housing, crisis helplines, drop-in centers, employment and training schemes, counseling and befriending. If you'd like to find out more or would like to get in contact with Mind, we'll leave links to them on our website.
Sam: There's also Young Minds who are the UKs leading charity fighting for children and young people's mental health and will help so you won't feel alone and you have someone to turn to. They want to see a world where no young person feels alone with their mental health and all young people get the mental health support they need. We'll also leave a link to Young Minds on our website too.
Ross: And from a personal perspective, what is the best thing to come from the Wolfpack Project and have you made any true friends from it?
Damien: The best thing that's come from the Wolfpack Project is if we look at 2020, and we supported over 750 people. So I think it's really those connections and seeing the differences that people have made and the milestones they've made in terms of making more connections and making friendships. I think personally for me, I've made so many connections and I've got so much out of this and I would say in many respects, some lifelong friendships.
Sam: Damien, thank you so much for your time and for joining us here on The Money Pot.
Damien: Thanks for having us.
Sam: And we'd just like to thank Damien again from the Wolfpack Project for joining us. The Nottingham is proud to support the work that the Wolfpack project is doing. If you want to find out more head to thenottingham.com/podcast where we'll post links to both the Wolfpack Project and the other charities that we mentioned and our interview.
Ross: Okay Sam, thanks for today. And we'll see you on the next one.
Sam: See you on the next one. To find out more about anything we've discussed in this episode, visit the nottingham.com/podcast. And if you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe so you're notified when a new episode is released. You can rate and review this podcast and share it with your friends. And if you have any topics that you'd like us to cover, reach out to us on our Facebook, which is facebook.com/thenottingham or on our Twitter, which is at @NottinghamBS. So until next time, thank you for joining us and we'll see you on the next one.