News

Black Dog saved a shattered Peter

Peter Johnson, of Iluka, with his Black Dog tattoo and a memorial to his son, Jason.
Peter Johnson, of Iluka, with his Black Dog tattoo and a memorial to his son, Jason.

WHEN he heard his 28-year-old daughter Nicole had been run over and killed by two semi-trailers on Harwood Bridge, Peter Johnson prayed to God to make his next breath his last.

That was June 28, 2007 and it marked just the beginning of a tumultuous four years for Mr Johnson and his Iluka-based family.

His daughter Sara, who was in Year 11 at the time, was expelled from her school some time later; the details cannot be published because of legal restrictions.

A little over three and a half years later, Mr Johnson led the search party that discovered the body of his 40-year-old son Jason hanging from a tree in bushland east of New Italy.

Though Nicole's death was never proven as suicide, Mr Johnson said the family, especially Jason, were plagued by the stigma that she had taken her own life.

Aside from the truck drivers, there were no witnesses to the incident, Mr Johnson said, and very little information was uncovered in the investigation.

Mr Johnson said Nicole was lying in the middle of the southbound lane when she was hit by a semi-trailer, closely followed by another, about 7pm.

Even though Nicole had drug and alcohol problems and had recently had her twin baby boys removed by the Department of Community Services, Mr Johnson said the family could not accept that she had opted to take her own life, even though he said it was a possibility.

"Sometimes Nicole would just go off and we wouldn't hear from her for a day or two - the last time we saw her was when we dropped her off on the highway almost at Yamba Rd about 5.30 that night," he said.

"A couple of witnesses said they saw her trying to hitch- hike.

"Her death impacted everybody severely."

Life went on for Mr Johnson, his wife Brenda and their six surviving children, albeit with some significant challenges, but Jason was never quite the same.

Before his death early last year, Jason was very depressed.

"He took his Bible everywhere and when his girlfriend said he hadn't taken it and wasn't drawing money, we knew something was wrong."

In February 2011, a shooter found Jason's abandoned car on a bush track east of New Italy.

On February 10, Mr Johnson led the search party that found his son's body - his remains indicating he may have been hanging for up to 20 days.

"I don't think he wanted to be found ... I don't swear very often but I swore my guts out and my biggest worry was 'how am I going to tell my wife'," he said.

The psychological toll of these traumas has left deep scars for Mr Johnson but he said his faith, the support of his children and friends, along with insights from the Black Dog Institute had helped him through.

"There are many times I've felt like giving up... when you are severely depressed you lose all perspective.

"I like Black Dog because it's not so much to do with medication but exercise, diet and counselling.

"On the website you can diagnose how you're travelling with a checklist and a tally."

A recent spate of public bullying had prompted him to speak out and remind people their words could be far more damaging than they ever realised.

Topics:  black dog institute, peter johnson




DEX Sports quotes of the week

Australia's Zoe Buckman competes in the Women's 1500m heats, at Hampden Park during the XX Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

"WHEN I first saw her I said this girl going to the Olympics"

From accounting to empowering people with the new age

Katie Gasson at the Psychic Channeling and Healing Festival at the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club.

Katie Gasson talks about how she found the new age.

Latest deals and offers

Day 2 Splendour Pictures

Sticky Fingers perform at Splendour in the Grass 2016. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Splendour in the Grass Day 2 covered in pictures.

WATCH: News reader tries her hand at hardcore shooter, Doom

Veteran journo and noob gamer takes a shot at Doom

What's on the small screen this week

MasterChef Australia's final four contestants, from left, Harry Foster, Elena Duggan, Elise Franciskovic and Matt Sinclair.

MASTERCHEF makes way for The Bachelor on Ten's reality TV slate.

Guy Sebastian a hit at Splendour in the Grass

Guy Sebastian performs at Splendour in the Grass with Paces.

REALITY TV judge a hit with festival crowd.

Superheroes of the big screen enjoy sounds of Splendour

CHRIS Hemsworth and his Avengers mates drop by Byron festival.

Indigenous artist shows tourists secrets of Aboriginal painting

Ever thought "I could do that" about Aboriginal art?

You can own this Queensland town for just $1

Yelarbon

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

Massive residential 9-storey high-rise hit by delays

An artist’s impression of the eight-storey-high apartment complex that Bernoth Holdings wants to build in South Toowoomba, next to the City Golf Club.

Developer struggles to get approved high-rise development started