A contracts manager within Esh’s affordable housing division is set to embark upon the mighty Wainwrights Challenge in a bid to raise awareness about mental health and benefits that being outdoors and hiking can bring.
On May 21st, Darran Milne will be swapping construction sites for the mountains when he commences his challenge to scale all 214 Wainwright fells in the Lake District in just 18 days. It is a 320-mile challenge, which includes England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, and a total ascent of 36,000m.
The 49-year-old army veteran will fundraise for two North East organisations, ManHealth and Man Club, to help support more people who may be struggling with their mental health. He said: “Doing this challenge in aid of mental health is really important to me. In the past when I have suffered, I never spoke out, then when I looked for help, I couldn’t find any. Things have changed now and there are many groups where you can talk and get things off your mind. This type of support is crucial, I wish it had been in place when I needed it.”
Darran left the army in 1994 after serving as a soldier in the Elite Reconnaissance Platoon. He started his journey into the construction industry, first as a bricklayer before working his way into site management. It was during the financial crisis in 2008 when he first experienced difficulties with his mental health.
“I was made redundant and went through some dark times, but I came out the other side as a better person. A big factor in getting through this was exercise and getting out hiking again.
“I remember a real positive turning point in my life, it was 2012 and I went to Scotland for a holiday. I took the train into Fort William where you take in the sights of Ben Nevis and other mountains, and it really inspired me to start walking again. From that point I went out into the mountains as much as possible. When I travelled to the Lake District and saw the amazing landscape greeting me as I drove in, I could feel the positive change in my mind.”
In 2018, Darran secured his qualification as a mountain leader and has since led several mountaineering trips for forces veterans across the UK. Veterans In Crisis Sunderland will be joining Darran on his challenge for one day.
“Being outdoors and in the mountains can really help with your mental health, it certainly did for me. I will be raising money for two amazing charities to help them provide even more support to those who need it.”
ManHealth are a voluntary sector organisation that provides free peer support groups across County Durham, Darlington, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland for men with poor mental health. Paul Bannister, Founder of ManHealth, said, “We are always humbled when people offer to raise awareness and donations for the work, we do to reduce male suicide. Darran is an amazing advocate for men’s mental health and has set himself a Herculean task. Sometimes living with poor mental health, small tasks can seem impossible. This challenge that Darran is undertaking shows that with grit, determination and the right support any challenge can be overcome.”
Established in 2022, Man Club is a mental health group in Durham that aims to provide a safe and supportive environment for men to discuss their mental health challenges through group activities, such as badminton, football, walking football and paddleboarding. Adam Oliver, founder of Man Club, commented: “We want to break down the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and to create a space where men can feel comfortable sharing their struggles without fear of judgment. We are delighted that Darran chose us as a fundraising partner and that he shares our vision – we wish him all the success with his challenge.”
If you would like to make a donation, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/darran-milne?utm_id=1&utm_term=N7MqRGvay
To track Darran’s journey, visit https://live.opentracking.co.uk/dmw2023/
Doing this challenge in aid of mental health is really important to me. In the past when I have suffered, I never spoke out, then when I looked for help, I couldn’t find any. Things have changed now and there are many groups where you can talk and get things off your mind. This type of support is crucial, I wish it had been in place when I needed it.”