A VETERAN who felt “broken” after an IED blast in Afghanistan did a 24-hour weightlifting challenge – to show that no matter how low people might feel someone is always there to lift them up.

Mark Tonner lifted a total of 78,150 kilos – the equivalent of three Apache helicopters – by deadlifting almost non-stop between 1pm on Saturday, January 29 and 1pm Sunday, 30.

The 38-year-old, from Catterick, lost the use of his right arm after he was injured by an improvised explosive device, whilst on foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2010.

Mr Tonner lives with PTSD and to aid his recovery and to support his mental health he does fitness and strength training.

He has taken part in an Ironman triathlon and the Highland Games and has twice broken weightlifting records to be named World Disabled Strongman.

The Northern Echo:

He used the event, at the Veterans Community Hub in Newton Aycliffe, to raise £2,000 for the hub’s support services and the Wounded Highlanders - the only UK adaptive Highland Games team of which he is part.

More importantly, it was also a platform for him to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention.

He said: “It was a hard year, last year, I lost friends – veterans and civilians – due to suicide.

“I really took it to heart because of the loss but also I’d been there myself, fortunately I had people to drag me out of it.

“I wanted to do this event and get people along to talk about their coping mechanisms, for people to share the things they do to help when they’re feeling low.

“For me, it is training.

“I was broken when I got hurt, I was weak, I don’t want to be that man again and that’s what drives me to push and lift as much as I can.

“But that isn’t everyone’s way, I want people to share their coping mechanisms so others know they aren’t alone feeling the way they do and to think about if any of the ideas help them.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr Tonner live streamed the 24-hour challenge on social media, with support from his daughter Charley Tonner, 16, and stepson Ethan Wasley, 14.

On the day, he began by deadlifting 200kilos and as he felt his body was close to shutting down he gradually reduced the weight, only stopping for a short break at 5am, until the time was up and said he could not have completed it without the many people who attended or supported online.

He also has a podcast and will share a film featuring people’s coping mechanisms on YouTube soon, which people can view by searching for Mark Tonner on the platform.

The Northern Echo:

He said: “One reason I did the challenge was because nobody else would, pushing myself is what drives me and I found myself opening up more than I ever have.

“I also hope it shows people struggling and feeling suicidal that there is another way, find a coping mechanism that helps you and see that there is always someone who will help when you need it – it might be a best mate, a family member or a complete stranger – don’t sit in a dark hole by yourself tell or just show someone you need help.

“I hope raising awareness prevents suicide, whether it is 100 lives or one the 24 hours will have achieved something important.”

  • For detail of the Veterans HUb visit theveteranscommunityhub.co.uk
  • Support is available from Samaritans, on their 24 hour helpline, 116-123 or text SHOUT to 85258
  • Papyrus UK- prevention of young people suicide says if you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned for a young person who might be you can contact HOPELINEUK for confidential support and practical advice. Call 0800-0684141, Text 07860-039967 or

    Email pat@papyrus-uk.org


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