Peter Dejong and his mother Emma Bon. Peter died in 2015, and the Bon family use the experience to help others with mental illness.
Peter Dejong and his mother Emma Bon. Peter died in 2015, and the Bon family use the experience to help others with mental illness.

‘We watched this beautiful young man perish’

IT HAS been 11 years since Sarah Bon's nephew attempted to take his own life.

Peter Dejong was saved, to an extent, on that day but remained in a semi-vegetative state for five years. In 2014 he stopped breathing.

"We had a really long grieving period with him. When we were trying to bury him a cyclone hit, so the whole process was really traumatic for our family," Mrs Bon said.

Sarah Bon founded the Peter Project after her nephew tragically tried to take his own life.
Sarah Bon founded the Peter Project after her nephew tragically tried to take his own life.

"We watched this beautiful young man perish slowly and painfully."

But last year, Mrs Bon decided to use the experience in the hope other families would avoid similar heartbreak.

From there, The Peter Project was created.

"It's a bit cliche, but we wanted to save a life and stop a family going through what we went through," Mrs Bon said.

"We wanted somebody to see the pain and devastation (we suffered) and the choices he could have made differently to try and save a family from going through it.

"I'm definitely not an expert in this field, but I wanted to share my story so people could hear what Peter went through and maybe they can make a different choice."

The Bowen-based founder of the project participates in 'challenges' to raise funds for families and various causes, and to start a conversation about mental illness.

From trekking the Kokoda Track for the Whitsunday Suicide Prevention Network, to walking from Bowen to Cairns for a struggling family, Mrs Bon has worn her heart on her sleeve to start the conversation about mental illness.

"I find sometimes we get shut down and people are afraid of the stigma talking about suicide. But basically not talking about it is the problem," she said.

"If we can open that conversation … to help people get to a better spot in their life we're so much better off.

"Being ashamed of having a mental illness is our biggest problem."

Mrs Bon spoke at a Mackay SafeTalk Suicide Prevention training session with Grapevine on Thursday to educate attendees about the warning signs of suicidal thoughts and mental illness.



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