Nottingham’s Leading Youth Mental Health Charity the Wolfpack Project Give Advice on How to Tackle Loneliness This Festive Season

Words: Beth Green
Photos: Nikita Shelar
Illustrations: Bryony Loveridge
Wednesday 13 December 2023
reading time: min, words

One in four seventeen–25-year-olds will experience a mental health problem each year, so it’s no doubt that the demand for support is only growing. As a leading charity that works with sixteen–35-year-olds living within Nottinghamshire, The Wolfpack Project provides an option for many. We speak to their Support Manager Rachel, who has been with them since June 2022, to find out more about the charity's work…

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The Wolfpack Project’s ethos focuses on creating a safe and inclusive space for people to “make connections and get support with their mental health and wellbeing," says Rachel, The Wolfpack Project’s Support Manager. People can feel reassured knowing that all staff members are mental health, first-aid trained, to ensure they can attend to a wide variety of needs when people reach out. She explains how although they help with serious topics, they pride themselves on approaching everyone with “empathy, compassion, fun and above all friendliness.” They do this by helping people build their connections, in whichever area is necessary, that they can take with them in all aspects of their life. 

CEO Damien Reynolds originally set up The Wolfpack Project as a community group before registering it as a charity, and they will be reaching their fifth anniversary milestone next year. So, why did he decide to do this? Rachel talks openly about Damien’s experience of loneliness, “he both personally suffered with it, as well as losing some friends to suicide when he was in his twenties and thirties. He recognised that Nottingham needed a space for people in that age bracket where they can talk.” Whether that be the more formal mental health services or an informal chat among others, Nottingham was lacking, so forth the project began. One of the key benefits of the staff is that they have all had their own battles with loneliness and mental health, which makes them more approachable and understanding. It’s a build of trust; “often we can share our experiences too, which makes it easier for us to offer our support to them.” 

One of the key benefits of the staff is that they have all had their own battles with loneliness and mental health, which makes them more approachable and understanding

As we are all too aware, the winter months can be the hardest for people suffering with their mental health. Whether that be due to things like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or perhaps the pressure of Christmas, with strained familial relationships. For some, these could be all the ingredients for a barrel of loneliness. Unfortunately, it is still far too common for LGBTQ+ members to be shunned or judged by their loved ones for their sexuality. It’s no wonder why the Christmas period can be so hard for them. 

One of the ways The Wolfpack Project supports members of the LGBTQ+ community is through their regular LGBTQ+ Huddle social event, held every month. “All of our groups will run right up until Christmas, with the last being the LGBTQ+ Huddle social on Wednesday 20 December.” They pride themselves on being accessible both online and in-person, all year round, bar their Christmas closure. Rachel recognises that the demand for their service is ever apparent during the colder months. Group numbers have been rising; “I think it’s a sign of people not wanting to feel isolated, as well as making the effort to have a connection. It’s beneficial, especially now, to be around people and give yourself a distraction – we are very happy to be that for you!” 

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For people interested in joining, there are plenty of choices to suit a range of needs. “Every month we have a coffee space, board games, LGBTQ+ group, arts and crafts, as well as a big evening social and more.” The last big social of the year is on Wednesday 6 December, and will be held in their HQ that they share with The Winchester pub in Sherwood. The two will be collaborating to hold a festive evening of games and drinks. They also offer additional seasonal groups, such as their walking group, paddle boarding and mini golf which are most popular in the spring and summer months.

Joining the Project is a simple process; people can sign up directly through their website. “It is here that people can give us more information on what it is they need, whether that be attending our social groups, or one-to-one support,” Rachel says. Once signed up, you will receive a welcome booklet and access to their booking system, where they can pick and choose to attend what they wish. Another option is signing up to a session through Eventbrite: “This is usually what people who may want to dip in and out do, rather than regularly attend – either is fine!”

It’s beneficial, especially now, to be around people and give yourself a distraction – we are very happy to be that for you!

Some people may find the idea of a group environment overwhelming; if this is the case, the Project will offer you a personalised one-to-one support session. Rachel will be the one working with you. “We can go over anxiety-management, stress reducing techniques, talk about worries and concerns and put in place any support we believe could help them.” These sessions are usually held within their HQ building, to create a sense of safety and consistency for the individual. They also regularly update their resources on their website and socials for people to access, as well as their podcast, should they not feel able to speak to anyone.  Another offering throughout the year is the Wellbeing Workshop: “This goes over the five ways to wellbeing, as well as universal strategies, to help you both in the moment and long term.”

For now, The Wolfpack Project is putting all its energy into the build up to Christmas, ensuring that there are enough resources available, as well as groups to attend. Otherwise, Rachel speaks about a conference for June next year. “It’s for professionals and people who want to learn more about mental health and wellbeing. There will be panel discussions and workshops, to help teach people about new and creative ways to approach mental health that people can implement into practice.” As for their five-year birthday, there are currently no plans, though Rachel laughs, “If in doubt, we’ll most likely have a party, with lots of drinks and cake!”

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Christmas is inevitable, and the pressure of connections increases during this time, which can be either a blessing or a curse. As it is the charity’s key theme, Rachel explains how you can act accordingly to keep your wellbeing in the best possible state. “Our biggest tip is to think about who you want to prioritise spending time with and how you’re going to do it - try to find the balance.”

More information on how to get involved can be found at


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