Breaking the Silence recap

On April 24th Life Matters hosted our Breaking the Silence event. We want to extend a huge thanks to all those who attended and especially to our panelists: Maria Dillon, Abigail Clark, James Sutherland, Tiana Mihere, Hahna Briggs and Jane Stevens.

Each of our amazing panelists shared powerful stories of personal loss and their own experiences navigating the Mental Health system. What emerged throughout the evening were some common threads which tie these stories together. These same threads are woven through the stories of the attendees who were brave enough to speak at the event, and in the results of our recent online survey. The survey invited members of the public to share their own experiences of the Mental Health system so we can ensure they reach the Mental Health Inquiry panel. We received over 500 submissions and the results, while unsurprising, are harrowing.

By collating this information we are working to identify what these frayed ends look like in the hope that we can stop vulnerable people from falling through the cracks.

Difficulty accessing services

By far the biggest hurdle to getting care is having the concerns for yourself or your loved-one taken seriously, quickly. Again and again we have received reports of 3 month waiting lists for psychiatric assessment, “not enough beds” available in crisis wards, people turned away because their mental-state or destructive behaviours are not being deemed “urgent” enough and because they do not meet the “criteria”.  It seems that the system is set up to provide care only in the most urgent circumstances, and help is not available to those who are not immediately suicidal. We need to be helping people before they get to that point.

In the same vein, many people report being discharged before they were ready, when they still felt they posed a threat to themselves or others. Again and again we hear stories of people turned away from Mental Health services in times of crisis and, feeling they have no other option, taking their own lives.

Cost is also a barrier to a huge amount of people, who, having been given 6+ weeks to see a psychiatrist in the public system, have no choice but to wait. We have received feedback from people who did get appropriate care privately, thankful that they had the funds and resources to access the support that saved their lives.

Yet another barrier to help is drug-use or addiction. In many cases, if a suicidal person is using drugs, the Mental Health department will refuse to help, insisting they seek help for their drug use. If this is not viable or realistic, addiction services will not help them either, leading to them being bounced back and forth between services and too easily falling through the cracks.

Access to services is difficult enough but it is important to acknowledge that for marginalised groups the difficulties are compounded. Some of these groups include our youth, men, Maori and the LGBTQ+ community, who all face unique struggles along the path to mental wellness.

Lack of compassion

Judgemental, demeaning, dismissive, isolating, cold, clinical, unhelpful and unwilling to listen to family members; just some of the words used to describe encounters with the Mental Health system. Many respondents also acknowledge that Mental Health professionals are often underpaid and overworked, struggling on the frontline of a much larger battle. It is worth noting that there is also a lot of praise for those working within the system, but the callousness of the system itself leads to huge pressures on staff. It goes to show that this issue runs deep, and sees an unhealthy culture perpetuating unhealthy outcomes.

Lack of follow-up

Too often, after seeing a health professional or being discharged from a ward, people are left to their own devices. Time and time again, people have reported being told they would receive a phone call or visit from a professional checking in on their progress, but these phone calls/visits never come. At a time where wrap-around support is crucial to the ongoing wellbeing of the patient, it just isn’t there.

There is also inadequate access to respite facilities and, on occasion, service users have been discharged with no place to go. If a patient is discharged into the care of family, it is unlikely that the family with receive any ongoing support. They are left concerned and afraid, with the huge responsibility to save the life of their loved one.

Inadequate support for families and loved ones

After a suicide, comes grief. Huge, monumental, incomprehensible grief. While navigating this grief a family is also then confronted by the vicious bureaucratic realities of death: funeral expenses, tying up loose ends, debt collection agencies, legal matters and, too often, questions of culpability. The system provides no support or guidance at this point, and in some cases, isolate the family entirely, refusing accountability and silencing the family’s concerns.

Here at Life Matters we believe that legal support should be provided, free-of-charge, to families bereaved by suicide. Families mourning the loss of a loved one should not have to fight so hard for justice. Not alone.


Stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness is pervasive and serves to bolster all these barriers to help. Seeking help can be difficult for anybody, and because our society views mental illness through the lens of stigma, many people may be reluctant to receive a diagnosis which could lead to the help they need.

While our youth have access to counselling through school, there is the perception among them that this is not confidential, as school counsellors have been known to pass information forward to teachers. While we may be able to understand the reasoning for this, it is actually likely that it will prevent some kids from seeking the help they need. In some schools, there is little discretion, making it obvious that a child has an appointment. For this reason, many kids are reluctant to seek help when they need it because they don’t want others finding out. This shows how stigma itself acts as a barrier to support; we need to change the discourse and shift the message; It is okay to not be okay.

We should be committed to ending the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness. If we, as a society, can talk loudly about these issues that affect so many of us, then these barriers to support can be broken down.


Remember to look after yourself and loved ones. Use the helplines and ask for help from services. Contact us if you struggle to access help or need support in the aftermath.

We encourage everyone to contribute to the Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry and to connect with the panel if they come to a town near you. You can make an online submission or go to a public meeting. All information can be found on this website.


Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Letter to Jacinda Ardern

 Corinda Taylor

Congratulations on becoming the new Labour Prime Minister of NZ.
From one woman to another.

Would you be comfortable to let your loved one use the public system the way it is now?

Recently we saw you cry in public when a mother told her story about how the system failed her daughter who died by suicide. When you shared that tender moment with that mother did you feel her pain and did you realise the gravity of the broken mental health system?

Yesterday I heard how someone had to wait 12 months in the public system to get counselling. Another said the wait with ACC counselling is 6 months. Another couldn’t be admitted due to lack of beds only to be discharged without a plan or any support in place. Another, after an attempt, was admitted but discharged again without a plan or any support in place. Another was told they were not acute enough to be under mental health services because they didn’t have a mental illness. Another was not followed up. Another was told to go to emergency services when unwell and when they did that they were told that they were not unwell enough. They feel they were told to come back when they are serious enough about taking their own life. Some never come back again……. The above happened in a 24 hour period in my life when people inform the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust of how they struggle to navigate the mental health system that is designed to not only silence us but also keep us away from care. This is like a war zone in a third world country. We deserve better.

Jacinda, you have given assurance to the relatives of suicide victims that their voices will be heard when your government reviews mental health services when you are elected. Unfortunately you have never promised an inquiry unlike what some people may believe. There is a big difference between a review and an inquiry.

Our waiting lists for good care are huge and people are dying whilst waiting for care. A review will not give us the results we need and our people will continue to die unless you really listen to the voices of our currently 47,000 strong signature petition begging for an inquiry into mental health services.

Today I plead with you to do what is right for every New Zealander.

From one woman to another.

Warm regards
Corinda Taylor (mother of Ross Taylor who died by suicide after he was let down by the individuals in the mental health system).

Mental Health Inquiry

 My son, Ross Taylor took his own life after he asked mental health services for help three times in the last weeks before he died.

 Our family begged the services for help yet our grave concerns were dismissed and ignored.  Ross was only 20 years old and even though he was in the high-risk age and gender group his pleas for help were ignored. It is not surprising that New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate if people are treated like this.

No person should ever have to feel that suicide is their only option.

We need to provide better care.

Our mental health systems are failing our people and there are huge gaps. Despite our desperate and best efforts to ask for help from the services our pleas went unheeded. If my son was having a heart attack he would have received quality care however mental distress is often treated with less priority and with lack of empathy.

Please sign the petition for an urgent mental health inquiry for our new elected government to prioritize so that no person is turned away when in suicidal crisis.

We ask them to work together across all political parties and make the right decision for all New Zealanders.

I want an urgent inquiry into our mental health crisis so that no one else has to suffer like my son, Ross Taylor.

A mental health inquiry is needed so that we can see how many people are turned away from services, how many people have died by suicide after contact with services within 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 1 year. This inquiry needs to look at how many people have been discharged from services, often because they have missed their appointments due to being very unwell and then went on to take their own lives.

The public deserves to know how many people have simply been dropped from services or being told they don’t meet the criteria. None of the above information is gathered to identify what the problems are.

If we have this information we can make positive changes and lives will be saved.

The following to be implemented.

1.       Suicide prevention training for frontline staff to be mandated.
2.       DHB records to be electronic so that clinical information is readily available in a crisis.
3.       Zero suicide target in the health care system implemented.
4.       Increase primary health and GP funding.
5.       Commit to safe staffing.
6.       Independently investigate all serious adverse events (including attempts and self-inflicted deaths) of people who had contact with services up to 1 year after last contact.
7.       Independently investigate mental health services and give people with the lived experience an opportunity share how they and their families have been treated.
8.       Ensure that reporting of suicides by DHBs are mandated for up to a year and not voluntary for up to 28 days only.

Thanks very much for you support,

Corinda Taylor.

How a good diet and the right nutrients can benefit our mental health.

Brendon McIntosh

Kia Ora koutou, my name is Brendon McIntosh and I am a Community Pharmacist. I am very grateful to be asked by Corinda Taylor from the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, to talk today about how a good diet and the right nutrients can benefit our mental health.

Now I know mental wellbeing is multi-factorial and there are a huge number of factors contributing to our outrageous suicide rates and rates of depression, but today I am just going to focus on some dietary things we can be doing to improve our mood.

So what would a Pharmacist know about diet and mood you may ask? Well we know a lot about biochemistry and specific human body systems including the nervous system. But for me personally, I also have a degree in Neuroscience, so I have studied the brain for 3 years and I have also completed postgraduate study in nutritional medicine so I have looked at the effects different nutrients have on our bodies and in turn, the effects our bodies have on these nutrients.

The effects our diet has on our mental health has been well documented and more and more research is coming out in support of certain foods that have a positive effect on our moods and those that can have a negative effect. Numerous studies on depressed people have shown that even minor adjustments to their diets such as eating less junk food and eating more nutrient-rich foods can lead to improvement in symptoms and depression scores.

So what are some nutrients we should be eating to help our mental wellness and what foods are these found in?

  • Selenium – This is important as our soils in New Zealand have low levels of selenium, which in turn means our food will have low levels. Low selenium has been linked to low mood. Foods to increase for selenium intake are whole grains, Brazil nuts, seafood and organ meats.
  • Vitamin D – This is the sunshine vitamin. There is a theory that our depression rates are so high due to our position relative to the sun. The same is true in countries like Sweden. It is highly recommended that kiwis supplement with Vitamin D over winter. Not only is it good for mood but has also been shown to help our immune systems.
  • Omega 3 – This is an essential fatty acid made up of EPA and DHA. The DHA is the part that’s good for brain health. A quality and environmentally conscious fish oil supplement is good for increasing our levels but ensure it is a reputable brand that the fish oil hasn’t been sitting in the Pharmacy window and been degraded by the sunlight. You can also increase omega 3 intake via food. Sardines are the best. You can also get it from salmon or tuna but beware that the bigger the fish the more risk of toxins such as mercury which have the opposite effects on our brain health. Some plants have good amounts of omega 3’s like flaxseed, hemp and chia seeds, also walnuts and almonds can be a good source.
  • Antioxidants – These include Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Beta Carotene. Antioxidants may help us deal with the stress associated with mood disorders. These can come from foods like kiwifruit, oranges, carrots, raw nuts and leafy greens. If you are going to supplement ensure they are in the correct form, especially the vitamin E as a cheap supplement can cause negative effects.
  • B vitamins – These are great for those with busy lifestyles. Important for energy production and stress management. Especially vitamin b12 and folate but the B’s work best all together so eating whole foods like eggs, meat, poultry and fish but also whole grains, leafy greens, fruit and nuts. Basically if you eat a varied diet you should get enough B’s but in times of high stress you may need to supplement with a quality B complex vitamin.
  • Zinc – Zinc is an essential trace element important for most reactions in our bodies. It has also been shown to increase effectiveness of antidepressants. Zinc can be found in oysters, beef and lamb or also in whole grains, chickpeas and cashew nuts.
  • Protein – lastly it is important we are eating enough high quality proteins, as these are the building blocks for life. This comes from foods like meat but plants also have good protein levels, especially pea or hemp.

The above are all nutrients and foods we can increase to improve our mood. There are also foods to avoid if we want to give our bodies the best chance of vitality.

  • Caffeine – This is hard for me to say, as I love long blacks. But for those with depression that has anxiety associated with it, it is important to try and limit stimulants such as caffeine.
  • Alcohol – Again another hard one to say. But we all know the consequences of excess alcohol consumption. I cut alcohol out of my life for 9 months once and the things I learnt about myself were very eye-opening, especially in social situations.
  • Refined foods – These are high in calories but low in nutrients and usually high in sugar, which can cause a crash and obviously affect a person’s mood. Do I need to say no Big Macs or Wikid Wings?
  • Processed oils – Like Safflower and corn oil, these are high in omega 6 which can contribute to inflammation – one theory on the cause of depression.

Lastly I want to touch on our gut health. 70% of our feel-good hormone serotonin is made in our gut. This is the gut-brain connection via our microbiome. Increasing fermented foods like low-fat, low sugar yoghurt, Kim-chi and sauerkraut are good for general gut health but if you are taking certain medications or have a poor diet then I highly recommend a strain-specific probiotic that can help grow the number of good bacteria in our gut and help with depressive symptoms. Our microbiome can be improved with a diet that includes all the above nutrients I just talked about.

So to summarise, here are some foods and how many servings you should have to help improve mood. Some people would call this a happy meal:
1. Whole grains – 5 servings a day
2. Veges – 6 servings a day
3. Fruit – 3/day
4. Legumes – 3-4 servings per week
5. Low-fat unsweetened dairy – 2 servings a day
6. Raw nuts – 1 serving a day
7. Fish – at least 2 servings per week
8. Lean red meats – 3 to 4 servings per week
9. Chicken – 2 to 3 servings per week
10. Eggs – maximum of 6 per week
11. Olive/coconut oil – 3 teaspoons per day

And at the very least, please do you best to reduce intake of:
1. Sweets
2. Refined cereals
3. Fried foods
4. Fast food
5. Processed meat
6. Sugary drinks

Thanks for listening, if you have any questions you can add SnapChemist on Snapchat or follow SnapChemist on Facebook or Instagram and send Brendon McIntosh a direct message.

Huge thanks to Brendon for this very informative messsage, Keep following our page as we will bring you more on good healthy diets and lifestyles.


I lost my son

Corinda Taylor
I woke up this morning and reality hit me like a cold hard slap in the face.

I lost my son to suicide.

Not only did we lose our beautiful boy to suicide but we have kept relatively silent about it for four years. This is my first blog about the terrifying experience that no parent wants to have. I have kept silent because of the ongoing investigation into the care that my son, Ross Taylor, received at the hands of his psychiatrist and nurses.

This week the Mental Health Commissioner released his report after more than four long excruciating years after my son’s suicide.  The Southern District Health Board and the consultant psychiatrist Dr C  failed to provide services to Ross Taylor with reasonable care and skill and breached Right 4(1) of the Health and Disability Code. The independent psychiatrist who did the investigation for the commissioner stated that in her opinion the quality of clinical care that Ross received during the last three months of his life is a significant deviation from expected clinical standards. They have validated our complaint that the individuals concerned and the services failed our son.

This week our story also went public in New Zealand. We are extremely private people but felt compelled to speak up for the sake of current and future users of the mental health system.

I will be blogging regularly about our experience and how we were stonewalled repeatedly by the Southern District Health Board and clinicians before and after Ross died and how we battled to get positive changes to happen to ensure that nobody suffers a similar fate.

This week showed us who were prepared to support us to bring about positive changes. People from agencies have shown support for what they described and I quote “unethical conduct”, “neglect” and many more harder words that cannot be mentioned here. It has brought disgrace to the medical profession and tarred many good professionals with the same brush unfortunately. That was not our intention.

Some have said that they admired how I have channeled my energy into holding people accountable. I do not want admiration and I do not want sympathy. I want to see change.

I have been inundated with stories by many parents who have experienced similar tragedies and shared with me their pain and the battles to navigate a complicated mental health system. They also shared how families have been treated with such disdain and contempt with some trespassed or banned from services after trying to get the best care possible for their loved ones. I now realize that what happened to us is a common theme and only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s lance this sore and expose it for what it is.

Many have been unable to get fair investigations happen. They expressed support for our cause but stated that they did not have the strength to do what we did.

We would like to see more support for people and their families when in distress and we would also like to see good postvention support put in place. We have had no support offered to us by the Southern District Health Board during the four year investigation that would have paralyzed most people. This needs to change.

My hope is that our case has paved the way for many others to bring about change and hope. Nobody should have to beg services to help our loved ones in distress. Nobody should have to go to the lengths like we did to get a fair hearing to expose the truth.

Better systems, healthy communities and workplaces with committed health care professionals will result in safer and more effective outcomes with less people in crisis.

Corinda Taylor mother of Ross Taylor

The scars are a part of me but not all of me. The story of my recovery.

Amanda Hutchins

This beautiful story of recovery was sent to us to share with you.

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression in my late teens. This followed numerous admissions to the Mental Health Unit in Whangarei. My behaviour and emotions were gradually becoming more and more erratic and destructive. Still some days were okay where I could function and achieve everyday tasks. However these functional days were becoming few and far between. Every other week I was being taken to the inpatient unit as I could not control my actions. I was self-harming; not only cutting but I developed a desire for alcohol to block all my thoughts and feelings out. I would drink until I passed out or drink until I lost all self-control and overdose, which ever came first. There was no logic to this, the more I drank the worse I felt. I hated myself with a passion. My only goal in life was to destroy myself.

 As a little girl I never imagined this is the war I would be fighting. A war within myself that nobody else could fight and it was beginning to look like I would lose. A decision was made that I would be sent to a private clinic in Dunedin as that was the place to ‘deal’ with my problems. Everyone had so much hope. It was such a sure thing that I was going to recover at this wonderful place that people forgot to mention it would only succeed if I worked my ass off. I was turning up to the clinic under the impression that these skilled professionals would share their knowledge and then I’d be good to go. There was never any discussion around, this may not work for you, or, if this doesn’t work for you.

This was the place. Needless to say it did not work and I became really unwell. This clinic was not a stable place for me to find myself and overcome my illness. Budget cuts, staff lay-offs and the constant politics of living with a large number ‘clients’ saw me spiral into a deeper depression, one that I honestly thought would end my life. I was discharged as I was not meeting the expectations of the health professionals. The only things I took away from here was new ways to self destruct and a greater fascination with death.

I returned home worse than when I left, and with the added guilt of wasting all my parents money for a treatment that never worked. I felt like I was the biggest burden, that everyone (including people who did not know me) would be better off without me. My days were taken up with finding the best ways to die, while also dreaming of the day someone would save me. I could not get out of bed. I would stay there for days. I would barely eat. I could not manage to do anything except swim in the destructive thoughts that plagued my head. Days turned into weeks and nothing changed. I hated myself so much. I was evil and worthless and I was so angry that I was so weak and pathetic that I could not snap out of this. The only times I would go out would be when I was going drinking. My parents hating me drinking because 9 times out of 10 I would end up in the hospital after taking an overdose. I was playing Russian roulette with my life and I did not care. I hurt everyone around me, but I was so stuck in my own destruction I did not see what I was doing to others. It’s not that I didn’t care about others, I couldn’t see them. I could not hear them begging me to live over the raging voice in my own head telling me to die. I was labelled the problem patient. My team at mental health were frustrated at my lack of improvement and sometimes that frustration simmered over into anger. I did not trust them. I did not trust anyone.

One particularly bad overdose landed me in intensive care. I think my parents thought that was it, that I was going to die. When I woke up I dismissed the whole situation. Instead of accepting my actions, I decided that it was the doctors at the hospital trying to trick me in to living, that I was never in danger, the doctors just exaggerated the whole thing. That is how distorted my thinking was. Of course now I see how bizarre that belief was, but it was my reality at the time. This behaviour went on for years. A cat and mouse game with the grave.

When I was around 27 a group was offered in Whangarei that specialised in helping patients with BPD. I had not attended any group since leaving Dunedin so I was skeptical as to how this would even work. I did not want to go, nor did I want to participate in my recovery (if I could even recover). My counsellor was extremely supportive, encouraging me to at least give it a chance. I mainly agreed because she was nagging every time I saw her, which was rather annoying.
Whangarei is a 2 hour drive from where I live and the group was every week so this was going to be a serious commitment for me. I met with one of the facilitators who asked if I was committed to this, to changing. I gave her a less than enthusiastic nod. I was left with the impression that she had about the same amount of faith in me as I did in the course. However, on the drive home I make a commitment to myself that I would give this a proper go. Even though it was going to be hard it could not be worse than what I was already feeling.

Going to the first group was one of the scariest things I had ever done in my life. We had to talk in group, about ourselves, which I hated. But I did it. And to my surprise the world did not fall down. We had homework each week, which I found myself doing well at. We tracked our emotions and thoughts which was surprisingly validating. It also helped to get them out of my head. We were taught skills, helpful ways to manage strong emotions, how to challenge our distorted thoughts and how to identify filters. Each week I gained more confidence in myself. I was improving. It was not a straight line improvement, some weeks were crap, I went back to old behaviours, I could not decide if I wanted to give up alcohol, at times I felt like I could not use the skills. However, I kept going back to group. I think this was a key step in my recovery. Even though some weeks I didn’t reach my expectations of being ‘perfect’ in my recovery I still returned to group. I think that is the most important time, when you don’t do so great, but you go back to group and learn from it. I started to believe I could get better. I graduated this first group and the following year moved on to the next group where we cemented what we had already learnt. I started to set goals, I thought about the future, even my future. I started to believe in myself.

Still during this group it was not all smooth sailing. Old behaviours continued to surface, old thoughts
still made an appearance daily. The difference was that I understood where they came from. I did not have to act on the thoughts, I could distract myself. I did not have to spend the whole day thinking horrible things about myself. If I did go back to an old behaviour, I did not have to hate myself for it. I did not have to ruin everything because I made a mistake. I could carry on my journey, I could learn from it. I learnt that nobody is perfect. I learnt that I did not have to be perfect. I learnt I could be proud of how far I have come.

Today I am at university, following my dream of becoming a psychologist. I had never thought this was possible. The days where I could not get out of bed I had all but given up on this dream. The two years of group were the hardest years of my life. So much harder than the years I spent trying to end my life. Fighting to live while your brain is telling you to die is the bravest thing I believe anybody can undertake. Even when you think nothing will ever get better, give tomorrow a chance. Even when you think therapy or group is not going to help, give it a chance. You never know what is going to help you lay the foundations upon which you can rebuild your life. I am so glad I gave myself a chance.

I still have BPD, as far as I know there is no ‘cure’. I have good days and I have bad days like the rest of the population. Sometimes I have old thoughts running through my head. Sometimes I want to go back to old behaviours. Sometimes things get a bit too much for me to handle on my own and I need help. I lost many relationships through my illness, some friends, some family. I work to rebuild the ones I can, and, though incredibly painful, I work on accepting the ones I have lost. This is okay though. This is what life is, up’s and down’s, asking for help, sharing your experiences, and connecting with others.

I have many scars from my war with mental illness. Many are visible and many more that are not.

I sometimes get asked about the scars on my arm and if I would ever get them removed. I have thought about that a lot. I don’t believe I would ever get them removed. They are a part of me, a part of my story, a part of where I came from. But they are not all of me, just like BDP is a part of me but it is not all of me. I am much more than a mental illness.

Psychosis: Delusions

Corinda Taylor

Someone with first episode of phychosis can also have delusions.
Delusions are firmly held beliefs which are not based on reality or are a distorted version of reality.
For instance they believe they are God, or they are being plotted against, or they are under surveillance, or that they have a radio transmitter planted in the head, or that the TV is speaking them directly.
These beliefs are real… to the person experiencing them and may cause them to have strong feelings such as fear, anger, or elation.

Confused thinking
* Thoughts become confused, jumbled or nonsensical
* Thoughts may seem to speed up or slow down
* Person may have difficulty concentrating, speaking clearly or understanding a conversation, or remembering things
* Person may have difficulty understanding the intentions of others in social situations

Changed feelings
* Unexplained mood swings
* Overexcited, depressed or anxious
* Hard to feel emotion – numb and shut out

Changed behaviour
* More active and impulsive than usual
* Less active – sit around all day, sleep a lot
* Laugh or become upset at no apparent reason

Remember, this too will pass with good help and support.