An ex-Army officer fundraising for fellow sufferers of male post-natal depression is visiting Aberdeen Harbour as part of his epic round-Great Britain sail.
Dorset sailor and former Officer in The Queen’s Dragoon Guards Mark Ashley Miller suffered from the illness following the birth of his first child.
Having never forgotten the experience, upon retiring he sold his internet company and bought himself a boat to go sailing so that he could raise money for a cause close to his heart.
Mr Ashley Miller is now attempting to meet every harbour master in the land – 300 in all – and finally write a book about his escapades.
Close to smashing his £10,0000 target already, the 58-year-old is raising money for The Seafarer’s Charity, which lends to its members mental health guidance and support.
‘I suffered with depression myself’
His incredible summer journeys round the spectacular coast, which began in Dartmouth in 2019, now takes him to Aberdeen to meet the harbourmaster Alex McIntosh.
He says: “I wanted to raise money for charity and I’ve had depression myself so I wanted to find a men’s mental health charity.
“I got depression when we had our first child, they’re both grown up now, but I got men’s post natal depression and the main thing I advise people to do is go to their GP and to talk about it because it is solvable, it’s like any illness, you can get better, you just need treatment but the problem is a lot of people just don’t want to talk about it and it’s very tough for them and their partners.
“I found it hard to talk about as well because by definition it’s still got a big stigma.”
He went on: “The marine and the fishing industry is a very macho industry and a lot of fishermen are on their own out there working but The Seafarers’ Charity do run programmes to get people to talk about their mental health and that was the reason I chose to raise funds for them.”
Men should be more open about their feelings
In the UK, a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) survey of new parents found that about one in three fathers said they were concerned about their mental health.
Mr Ashley Miller says the key to the route of the problem lies in persuading men that it is okay to open up.
He hopes his intention to meet Britain’s 300-plus harbourmasters as he sails around the coast in his 34ft long four-berth nauticat motorboat called Good Dog will help to raise much-needed awareness.
And he has happily set aside five of his summers for that very purpose.
Only another 180 harbourmasters to go
The Aberdeen harbourmaster is one of 120 Mr Ashley Miller has visited so far.
He has also visited harbourmasters at Nairn, Buckie, Cromarty, and Peterhead, among others in the north.
He says his wife Fiona sails with him “when the sun’s out” but he lives on the boat from Easter to October although never sails alone – always one friend, sometimes two, accompany him.
He added: “Year one I covered Dartmouth to Oban. Year two I covered Oban and all around the whole of the Scottish mainland and outer isles including the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland and St Kilda and round to Wick, Inverness and then Lossiemouth.
“I went home for the winter and went into year three at Oban before visiting harbours masters all along the coast to reach Aberdeen.”
A spokesman for Aberdeen Harbour said: “We were delighted to provide a berth and a tour of our extensive harbour facilities for the 34ft Ketch Good Dog as it sails around the UK visiting as many harbours as possible.
“Mark and crew were very interested to learn about Aberdeen City and that Aberdeen Harbour was established in 1136.
“According to the Guinness Book of Business Records, it is the oldest existing business in Britain with a history that has spanned almost 900 years. “
For more information or to donate visit virginmoneygiving.com/HarbourMasterSailingChallenge