Siblings take on marathon challenge in memory of brother who took own life

Photo of two runners holding race numbers.
Gemma Worner and Tyler Worner, who will be running the 2021 Bristol Half Marathon in memory of their brother Nathan.

A brother and sister from Little Stoke will be running the Bristol Half Marathon later this month to raise funds for a charity which supports families that, like their own, have been affected by military suicide.

The siblings’ family had their lives completely devastated in May 2020 when their brother, Nathan Worner, tragically took his own life following a battle with mental health illness.

Nathan was a serving soldier, a Rifleman based at Bulford barracks in Wiltshire. He was just 20 years old.
Six weeks after Nathan’s untimely death, his friend and colleague Mitchell Matthews also took his own life. Mitchell was based at 5 Rifles with Nathan. He was just 24 years old, married and had a young daughter.

Following the deaths of the soldiers, Nathan’s mum, Alison Blackwell was contacted by a lady named Jo Jukes. Jo lost her veteran husband, Lance Corporal David Jukes to suicide after a battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Jo is the founder of For The Fallen, a community interest company (CIC) dedicated to supporting families affected by military suicide. Jo, very admirably and bravely, set up a support group for families whilst dealing with her own devastating grief.

Photo of a soldier in uniform and a lady in a dress.
Nathan Worner with his mother Alison Blackwell.

Alison said:

“Suicide within the military and veteran community is a huge problem and so many lives are being shattered by deaths that can be so preventable. My own experience has completely rocked our world, suicide changes the dynamics of family life and impacts on the mental health of families. We are left with so many unanswered questions and haunted by the trauma we have suffered.”

“If it wasn’t for Jo Jukes and her unwavering support, I have no idea where I would be right now, I have been given so much advice, support and help from people who have sadly experienced the exact same ordeal as myself.”

She added:

“This is a group that has suffered such devastating loss, but every person is dedicated to raising awareness of mental health illness and breaking the stigma associated with suicide”

Since the death of her son Nathan, Alison Blackwell has become a director of For The Fallen.

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On 19th September 2021 Alison’s eldest son Tyler Worner and her daughter Gemma Worner will be joined by Nathan’s friend’s Jake & Mitchell Tovey and Dan Watkins to take part in the Bristol Half Marathon, through which they are hoping to raise £800 for For The Fallen.

All five are completely new to long distance running and have admitted it’s a massive challenge for them. Gemma joined North Bristol Running Group to help with her training schedule but unfortunately suffered a knee injury a couple of months ago. She was out of action for some weeks but is back to training hard as the run is fast approaching.

Both Tyler and Gemma are feeling quite emotional about running in the half marathon. It became apparent shortly after Nathan’s death that he had planned to take part in the 2020 Bristol Half Marathon to raise funds for a charity dedicated to veterans suffering with PTSD.

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Tyler and Gemma are so proud that friends have volunteered to join them in honour of their brother Nathan and his friend Mitchell Matthews.

Tyler said:

“As my brother and Mitchell were trained soldiers, I’m pretty sure 13.1 miles would be a walk in the park to them, but to us this is a huge challenge and I just hope we all do him and Mitchell proud. Life since my brother died has been an agonising journey and one I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

Gemma added:

“I hope alongside reaching our target of £800, we can also raise awareness of mental health and encourage people who are struggling to reach out. Far too many soldiers and veterans are dying through suicide unnecessarily. The need to normalise mental health illness is crucial.”

A fundraising page named ‘Families Affected By Military Suicide’ has been set up at gofund.me/6c5c1d29

Alison concluded:

“For The Fallen is fighting relentlessly to break the stigma associated with mental health problems and suicide. All monies raised will ensure the much-needed support can continue for every single family affected by military suicide.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine (on pages 28 & 29). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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