Innerleithen man pedalling message on mental health

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AN INNERLEITHEN cyclist is pedalling to London to raise money for mental health charity Mind this week.

Father-of-one Stuart Potter, right, left Edinburgh on Tuesday and hopes to make the 400-mile journey to the British capital in three days, arriving today.

A communications consultant and former Fringe comedian, Stuart had depression for almost 20 years before being diagnosed.

He said it was his desire to be a better father which prompted him to seek help.

Mr Potter said: “In February 2011 I was diagnosed with clinical depression and now, a year later, I’m learning to live with it. One in four people suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in their lives, but still there is huge stigma and many are afraid to seek help.

“Unfortunately, I was one of those people – looking back, I can’t believe I left it so long to get help.”

Married to Diane with four-year-old daughter, Abigail, Mr Potter said: “Becoming a father changed everything. Every parent knows that the early years with a young baby can be mentally and physically challenging, and the loss of freedom to just escape on my bike – my previous coping mechanism – was very hard for me. Ultimately, it was love for my family, and my desire to conquer depression to be a better husband and father, which prompted my first step to seek help.”

By Tuesday he had raised £2,800. His Twitter account @biggestjourney twitter has more than 1,000 followers.

The endurance athlete describes himself as having been a keen cyclist since he was 16, enjoying both mountain and road biking. He has three times completed the Selkirk 85km mountain bike marathon and the town’s 95km road sportive, he’s twice competed in the legendary Strathpuffer 24-hour mountain bike endurance race, he completed a 200-mile solo ride from home to Middlewich in 14.5 hours last year and he has twice taken part in the Kielder 100km mountain bike endurance race.

Mr Potter hopes his Biggest Journey will challenge the stigma about mental illness and encourage anyone concerned about their or a loved one’s mental health to seek professional help. His schedule this week includes four stops to give presentations about mental health at work.

The project has attracted support of high profile Scottish cyclists, including James McCallum, Katy Winton and Craig Burn, and is supported by his Edinburgh employers, Veecom Systems.

Mr Potter said: “I would strongly urge anyone struggling with depression to take that first step and seek help – you are not alone and you may be surprised by the support and understanding that is out there.”

He thanked his wife Diane, who is expecting their second child in August, for her support.

For live updates and blog, visit www.biggestjourney.com, and follow @biggestjourney on twitter.