When a woman is feeling down there is nothing quite like a get together with the girls to lift her spirits. Whether it is setting the world to rights over tea and cake, swapping craft tips or lending a sympathetic ear – friendship is often the best form of therapy. This is the thinking behind the Cree project, a health and well being project based on an Australian scheme called Men’s Sheds. The aim is to provide a place for people of all backgrounds to come together, make friends, learn new skills and gain confidence. It started with men but these days more and more women are jumping on board and the women’s Cree in Trimdon Station, County Durham, is growing from strength to strength.

The group, funded by East Durham Trust and the NHS, celebrated its second anniversary last month and meets on a Wednesday morning from 10am to noon at Trimdon Station Community Centre. It attracts women of all ages and backgrounds, providing a safe and welcoming space to socialise, learn new skills and, if wanted, discuss problems.

Rachel Large, 39, a mother-of-three from Trimdon Colliery, suffers from depression and reached crisis point in September when she disappeared home.

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A major police search followed before she was found safe and well in the Peterlee area.

Mrs Large joined the Cree group shortly afterwards.

“I just felt I couldn’t cope anymore,” she said. “Someone recommended I come here and it was one of the best things I have ever done. No-one judges you. Everyone gets depressed sometimes and needs help.”

Alice Dart, 76, Val Cox, 63, and Harriet Hope, 66, said the Cree was a great way of making friends and beating feelings of loneliness, while another member, who asked not to be named, described the group as “one big family.”

The 26-year-old, who recently came out of a violent relationship, said: “I was nervous when I first came but I received such a warm welcome. If I come here when I’m feeling depressed, I nearly always feel better by the time I leave.”

Cree Champion Derek Bradley, development manager at Trimdon Station Community Centre, said: “Jo Taylor who runs the group does a fantastic job. One of the great things about the project is that it brings together people of all ages.

“There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in that room and I truly believe that sharing skills and offering advice benefits both the giver and the receiver.”

To find out more about the Cree Project contact the East Durham Trust on 0191-5693511.

Anyone wanting advice or help from the Samaritans should contact the 24-hour helpline 08457-909090.