The founder and CEO of a Nottingham-based charity which has launched a winter campaign to tackle loneliness among young people says the issue is a ‘silent pandemic’.
The Wolfpack Project is a charity that aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation among young adults.
According to the charity, 16-24-year-olds are three times more likely to report feeling lonely than those over the age of 65, and one in four young people have experienced mental health issues and related to career prospects, education, and forming social connections.
The charity says a number of surveys have found younger people have been disproportionately affected by the Covid pandemic, in there was an upward trajectory of loneliness in young adults from June to November 2020, with a sharp rise in the winter months due to lockdown.
It claims the surveys also found young adults with long-standing physical or mental health conditions were more likely to report feeling lonely, and those with a lower household income, unemployed or not in school reported higher levels of loneliness.
One person the charity has helped is Dwayne Wilkinson, who has autism. He started to visit The Wolfpack Project in 2019 after being referred by his social worker.
Dwayne said: “I’ve felt alone my whole life, and I’ve struggled to make connections with people who understand me.
“A few years ago, I had a brain aneurism which made a lot of things in my life very difficult, I was angry about it for a long time.
“I find it very hard to trust people but being able to meet other young people who could empathise with me completely changed my life, it made me feel safe and I feel much less agitated.
“I found winter particularly hard, as I was alone and there was a lockdown. I live by myself and couldn’t go out to see anyone, I couldn’t even see my Mum.
“It helps to know though that others are in the same boat and struggling to make friends, so we can feel safe around each other and we don’t have to put on a front.”
As part of a winter campaign, the charity is urging young people to talk about their mental health and to overcome loneliness through social groups, events and community building workshops.
Damien Reynolds, founder and CEO of The Wolfpack Project, said: “Young people coming out of lockdown, and potentially facing another over the coming winter months, are feeling chronic loneliness like never before.
“We hope that our winter campaign will encourage young people to talk about their mental health and to reach out to us if they feel lonely.”
The charity will open their phone lines to young people who are lonely and just want someone to talk to.
They will also be making Christmas cards and delivering festive wellbeing packs to young residents at Nottinghamshire YMCA’s homeless hostel.
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