Parents of young Hawkes's Bay man who died in suspected suicide demand answers from DHB

Warning: This story contains details about mental health and suicide.

The parents of a young man who died in a suspected suicide are demanding answers from Hawkes's Bay District Health Board.

Twenty-six-year-old Shae Miners died in February, just 24 hours after he was sent home by the DHB without being seen by a psychiatrist.

His parents, Linda and Malcolm Burkes are torn apart by grief.

"We cry every day, it's crushing. The grief is crushing," Linda says.

"Our hearts are broken into a million bits and I don't know if we'll ever recover," Malcolm adds.

Shae's family has been left with just photos and memories of their son and brother.

His sister Jaimee Stewart says he was a loving and protective older brother.

"We spent a lot of time together just hanging out as brother and sister, and as friends as well."

Shae battled with his mental health as a teenager - after becoming addicted to drugs.

"That's where I think it all started, the legal stuff they could buy at the dairy," Malcolm says.

Shae struggled with his health and drug addiction for years, but everything changed in 2016 when his wife became pregnant.

Malcolm and Linda say his kids were the motivation to become drug free.

"That was his main purpose for living was those kids, he loved them so much".

Shae and his parents.
Shae and his parents. Photo credit: Supplied

Four years and three children later, Shae was still drug free, living in central Hawke's Bay and working for pig farmer John Riordan.

But last year, his mental health took a turn. So John helped him get regular counselling sessions in Waipukurau.

"That seemed to be working, but then pressures came on and he started to deteriorate quite quickly."

Shae was having constant suicidal thoughts - but told his parents he was repeatedly refused an appointment with the psychiatrist at Hawke's Bay DHB.

"He couldn't get in to see anyone, he was desperate to see somebody to get some help to regulate his moods," says Linda. 

John says Shae was making a huge effort to get himself back on track.

"That's what hurts the most, a guy that really wants help and no one would help him."

On February 17 his GP and counsellor referred him to the DHB's crisis team, and police dropped him off at Hastings Hospital.

Linda says there were no beds in the hospital, so he was sent to a really run-down respite home in Flaxmere.

Shae texted his mum that he was due for an assessment the next day.

He was at the home in Flaxmere for two nights - and told his family he was due to see the psychiatrist on Friday.

But on Friday his boss asked if he'd seen the psychiatrist.

Shae replied "no" - that they were sending him back to his GP and had taken him off his medication.

"The psychiatrist as we understand it didn't even see him, just told him he's not suicidal and wrote him off as a drug seeker, based on history prior to 2016.

"Shae was so upset, he was devastated. All his hope was gone," says Linda.

Shae was sent home without his parents, employer or counsellor being called. He hitch-hiked more than 50 kilometres back to Waipawa.

The driver was so worried about Shae's mental state, they talked to his landlord when they dropped him off.

"If a perfect stranger can see how bad someone was like that, why could the mental health service not see that?," says Linda.

The next morning John had a text from Shae.

"He said 'thanks for all your help', that was it."

That afternoon, 24 hours after being sent home, Shae was dead.

His parents lay the blame squarely with the DHB and the psychiatrist, and want to know why the psychiatrist refused to see him.

"You can't form an opinion of somebody based on past history. He should have sat down and listened to our boy, and we might not have been having this conversation right now.

"It's just not fair," says Malcolm.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board declined Newshub's request for an interview and said in a statement it would not be appropriate to comment while this matter is before the Coroner.

"However, as you will appreciate, events such as these are invariably complex, and the Coronial process is in place to make factual findings about the circumstances that led to Shae's death.

"The DHB extends its sympathies to the family and would be happy to meet with them privately."

That's not enough for Shae's parents, who've written to the Health and Disability Commissioner, calling for an investigation into the DHB and the psychiatrist.

"I want to make sure something is done about mental health service. I want an attitude change out there," says Linda.

"I'd like an apology. He needs to apologise for what he did or didn't do. He shattered a family."

Where to find help and support: 

Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633

Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)

Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)

Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584