A successful business networking professional from Edinburgh is gearing up to cycle 400 miles from Edinburgh to London to raise awareness of mental health issues as well as money for the charity Mind, and has used his work expertise to help spread the word on Twitter.
Stuart Potter’s three-day ride, called The Biggest Journey, starts on June 19 and will see him stop four times en route from the Scottish capital to the English one to give presentations to members of business group 4Networking to help raise at least £4,000 for Mind.
Besides those stops en route, however, what sets the 35-year-old’s journey apart from many other charity rides is the fact that it’s less than a year since he took the important first step of himself visiting a doctor to confront his own depression.
Married with a daughter and another child on the way, Potter says that it was his family that inspired him to confront his mental health issues, and wants to use his journey to raise awareness of mental health problems, which according to Mind affect one in four British adults in any given year.
“I have been passionate about cycling all my life,” said Potter. “Evidence continually proves that time outdoors and physical exercise can help reduce depression, and as my coping mechanism, seemed a fitting way to support Mind.
“I felt strongly that I wanted to embark on this journey to raise awareness as well as money.
“Then I realised I couldn’t try to combat stigma, if I was still treating my own depression as taboo by keeping it secret.
“It was important to me to say out loud and publicly ‘I am one of those one in four’, and believe me, it is scary and very emotional.
“However, the reaction has been overwhelming. This has been an incredible year for me, with very difficult challenges in facing up to depression. But it has also been uplifting and life affirming, because of all the support and understanding I have encountered.
“Being involved in 4Networking has been brilliant, both for business referrals but also for friendship and support, which can be vital particularly in today’s tough climate, so I’m delighted to be involving them in my journey,” he continued.
“I’m also thrilled and grateful for the support of Veecom Systems, which as well as being a great place to work, has donated £400 and given me the week off to complete the challenge.
“It is really important to me to raise awareness of mental health and work to reduce stigma, because I know first hand that secrecy and taboo surrounding depression can exacerbate the problem and discourage sufferers from seeking vital help.”
Potter is now undergoing treatment for his depression, which has given him a more positive outlook for the future.
“Really it is my love for my family, and my desire to conquer depression to be a better husband and father, which prompted my first step and now Biggest Journey. We are very excited about the arrival of our second child in August. It’s going to be an incredible summer,” he added.
When talking about cycling and depression, thoughts inevitably turn to Graeme Obree, who is now back in the spotlight with a world human powered vehicle record attempt later this year, and whose battles with illness, including attempting suicide, were captured in his autobiography The Flying Scotsman, later turned into a film.
Obree’s thoughts last year on Gary Speed, the Wales national football team manager who took his own life, certainly struck a chord among road.cc users, judging by the comments to that article, and we’re sure you’ll join us in wishing Stuart Potter all the best not only for his journey from London to Edinburgh, but also the ongoing one he will continue to undertake beyond that.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.