Grieving family taking legal action against Hawke's Bay DHB after son dies by suspected suicide

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

A grieving family is taking legal action against Hawke's Bay District Health Board (DHB) after their son died by suspected suicide.

Taylor Dixon's family want justice, claiming he died because health authorities turned him away when he went for help.

It was a year ago Jo Dixon lost her son to a suspected suicide - a loss she didn't see coming.

"As a mum, you'd think I should know and pick and sense these things because mums are supposed to fix everything," she told Newshub.

Taylor, 26, lived in Hastings with his partner and three children. In 2020 she left him, taking their children home to Australia, but Taylor couldn't visit them because he was a 501 deportee.

After the breakup of his relationship, he started withdrawing. His uncle Marsell Makea noticed his behaviour change.

"A lot of things we used to do - catching up with each other, phone calls and messages - started to become extinct."

Then they had a call from Police, saying Taylor had been found dead in Hastings.

"It hurts, it's hard, very hard. No parent should be burying their child," Jo said.

A letter from Police to the family confirms Taylor had taken himself to Hawke's Bay Hospital the same day he died and spoke to someone in the mental health ward.

Police told the family Taylor was then turned away by the DHB because he was under the influence, and given a card to call the DHB the next day.

Jo said he was found with that card in his wallet that said they'd call at 10am on the 13th of that month.

"Well, he never made it, did he. It's awful and it really pains me to know that he went somewhere for help. He was turned away from a place where people go for help.

"He was turned away from a place where people go for help and he never got that." 

  • If you have a similar story, email Alexa Cook in confidence at 
Taylor Dixon.
Taylor Dixon. Photo credit: Supplied

It's a similar story to Shae Miners, who also died in a suspected suicide last year 24 hours after he was sent home by Hawke's Bay DHB without being seen by a psychiatrist.

"Shae was so upset, he was devastated. All his hope was gone," his mum Linda Burkes said last year.

Being declined help is something mental health advocate Genevieve Mora hears far too often.

"We have heard from people who've been told, you know, 'Come back when you've actually done something, when you've actually hurt yourself', which is absolutely terrible and not okay at all. It's incredibly heartbreaking."

But she doesn't want that to put people off from getting help.

"For those that are struggling I just want them to know the world is a better place with them in it and they need to hold on."

But Taylor couldn't do that after being turned away by the DHB, so his family is taking legal action against health authorities.

"It's not a matter of if and when, it's how soon we can get it done," Jo said.

"Legal action, absolutely, class action. We feel there's a level of responsibility, accountability here against the district health board and Ministry of Health," Makea said.

They're calling on other families to join them.

"The more of us we get, there is more power in numbers," Jo said.

Both Hawke's Bay DHB and the Police refused Newshub's requests for an interview, saying because it's before the coroner they can't comment on Taylor's death. 

The DHB said in a statement that any person that presents to Hawke's Bay Hospital's Emergency Department is thoroughly assessed by an experienced clinician before they are discharged. 

However, Health Minister Andrew Little told Newshub Hawke's Bay's mental health services are under more pressure than other DHBs.

"Hawke's Bay's waiting times for mental health services are above the national average. That said, I know Hawke's Bay has implemented some other measures. They now have a crisis support centre for people who are showing mental distress," he said.

"They've also got now support for a mental health worker in ED."

The Government made an additional investment of $202 million for mental health initiatives in this year's Budget.

"We still have work to do for the more specialist and acute end of services," Little said. 

Jo Dixon wants the minister to step up and fix the system.

"He's accountable, the bucks stops with the minister."

Newshub spoke with Taylor's mum when she came back from Australia to visit his grave in Waikato. She missed his funeral because of COVID-19 border restrictions. 

"As his mother, I was the first person to hug and kiss my son, and I wasn't able to do that for a last time. That hurts."

Makea said they don't want a similar thing to happen to other families.

"What we're going through at the moment I can't put into words."

Where to find help and support: