Hartlepool mother creates support group for women as she brings them together for a special photoshoot
A Hartlepool mother has been helping women in the town find support and form new friendships.
Dawn Smith, 41, has been running a mental health support group called The Solace Seekers for four years in a bid to help women and reduce loneliness.
The women meet every Friday and Dawn has said the community has grown from having just two members at its first meeting to now including over 30 women.
Dawn, from the Fens area of the town, has been struggling with anxiety and depression since her early 20s and has said running the group has helped her as well.
The mother-of-two said: "When I first started it online, that was helping myself and as I was starting to get better I wanted to help people who were feeling lonely.
"The first time I did it, I was down on the Headland and there were two ladies coming and then it just grew and grew and we have over 30 women now.
"It’s mainly a talking group and friendships are formed. Everyone just bounces off each other.”
She continued: "I think helping others helps yourself sometimes. A lot of the women in the group are seeing that and they’re forming friendships and doing their own thing helping each other. It’s nice to see.
"It’s humbling. Some women were coming in and telling really heartbreaking stories, trusting us.”
Dawn, who recently joined the Wild Wanderers community for women who love the outdoors, decided to bring women from both groups together for a photoshoot at Seaton Carew on Saturday to help break the stigma around body image.
Dawn said: "It was such a great day, it was so fun.
She added: "For me, I found confidence, self belief. The world can be pretty crappy sometimes, there’s quite a lot of competition in the world as well, so I think seeing us come together, all different ages, all different nationalities, that can give us hope.
The Solace Seekers meet every Friday between 10 am and 12 pm at the Corporation Club.
To find out more, join the community’s Facebook group The Solace Seekers.