Grieving husband says mental health system is ‘profoundly broken’

Southland woman Kristin Taylor, 35, took her life on August 27, 2020, after suffering maternal mental health problems after the birth of her daughter 15 months before.

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Southland woman Kristin Taylor, 35, took her life on August 27, 2020, after suffering maternal mental health problems after the birth of her daughter 15 months before.

A grieving husband and dad says it is apparent that New Zealand’s mental health care system is profoundly broken.

Kristin Taylor, 35, was a mum to an 19-month-old when she took her own life, after suffering from a number of complex psychiatric conditions, including, post-natal depression, which proved very difficult to treat, Coroner Peter Ryan’s report into her death says.

Taylor had received a great deal of support from health services and her family, but ultimately took her own life, the report says.

She had suffered from anxiety since her childhood in Southland, and had been taking antidepressants for about 20 years.

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Her husband Alistair said Taylor always wanted to be a mother and was so excited when the couple found out she was pregnant.

“She mostly adored being a mum, until her anxiety, which she had been battling on and off since her teens, returned,” he said.

“One therapist that we worked with described Kristin’s illness as the most complex they had ever seen and even with the work of the Kapiti Mental Health team and the private psychologist we were able to find for her – we could not keep her here.”

Alistair said it was apparent to him that the mental health care system is ”profoundly broken”.

“It is reliant on “care in the community” but our communities have broken down. Fifteen months of Kristin’s illness broke both of us, but we were too busy surviving to see it.”

When Kristin’s daughter was born in October 2018, after a traumatic birth, a new diagnosis of “generalized anxiety disorder with depressive elements” was established, the coroner’s report says.

Southland woman Kristin Taylor, 35, took her life on August 27, 2020, after suffering maternal mental health problems after the birth of her daughter 15 months either.

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Southland woman Kristin Taylor, 35, took her life on August 27, 2020, after suffering maternal mental health problems after the birth of her daughter 15 months either.

Those symptoms had escalated in the 14 months before her death, and she had been under the care of the Kapiti Mental Health Team and her general practitioner.

She had made several attempts to take her life in the year before her death, and her mother had also taken her own life in the months before.

Less than a month before she died, Taylor was reviewed by another consultant psychiatrist due to a deterioration in her mental health state. She asked to be admitted to hospital on a voluntary basis, and her husband agreed this was the appropriate course of action.

Unfortunately the psychiatrist found that there were no beds available at the time, and Taylor was offered a stay in respite care instead, but she declined this offer, the coroner’s report says.

The possibility of treatment under the Mental Health Act was also declined by the couple, the report says.

Following Taylor’s death, a Serious Event Review (SER) was undertaken by the Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability Service (MHAIDS) of the District Health Boards, to review the care provided by MHAIDS from January 2020 until her death.

Southland woman Kristin Taylor, 35, took her life on August 27, 2020, after suffering maternal mental health problems after the birth of her daughter 15 months ago.

Supplied

Southland woman Kristin Taylor, 35, took her life on August 27, 2020, after suffering maternal mental health problems after the birth of her daughter 15 months ago.

The review found there were no clear care delivery problems in relation to the incident which culminated in Taylor’s death, and specifically, on balance, there were no actions or omissions where care deviated beyond safe limits of practice.

It found there was a nuanced appreciation of Taylor’s formulation, including that she was at chronically increased risk of suicide and this risk was difficult to completely mitigate.

The SER report does identify other factors which provide scope for reflection and learning by MHAIDS, mainly relating to the provision of respite accommodation, consideration of the role of other persons directly involved in Taylor’s care, and communication with family.

Where to get help:

  • 1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
  • Anxiety New Zealand 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
  • Depression.org.nz 0800 111 757 or text 4202
  • Kidsline 0800 54 37 54 for people up to 18 years old. Open 24/7.
  • Lifeline 0800 543 354
  • Mental Health Foundation 09 623 4812, click here to access its free resources and information services.
  • Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254
  • Samaritans 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Supporting Families in Mental Illness 0800 732 825
  • thelowdown.co.nz Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
  • What’s Up 0800 942 8787 (for 5 to 18-year-olds). Phone counseling available Monday-Friday, noon-11pm and weekends, 3pm-11pm. Online chat is available 3pm-10pm daily.
  • Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz, or find online chat and other support options here.
  • If it is an emergency, click here to find the number for your local crisis assessment team.
  • In a life-threatening situation call 111.

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