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Priory Group

priorygroup.com

Founded Year

1980

Stage

Acq - Fin | Alive

Valuation

$0000 

About Priory Group

Priory Group is a provider of behavioral care in the United Kingdom. The company organizes its self into four divisions - healthcare, education and children's services, adult care, and older people's care - which together supports the needs of more than 30,000 people each year.

Headquarters Location

Middleton St. George Hospital Teesside International Airport

Darlington, DL2 1TS,

United Kingdom

+44 0800 840 3219

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Latest Priory Group News

Desperate people who can't get help are looking for it online. The consequences can be shattering

Jan 22, 2023

The consequences can be shattering "I don’t even bother going to the doctors anymore" Vulnerable people are turning to the internet for help The tragic death of the 'bright' and 'vivacious' mental health blogger, Beth Matthews, shone a light on the best and worst of the internet. Despite sharing her own struggles online to empower and save the lives of others, ultimately, her own life could not be saved. She died after ingesting a deadly substance bought online whilst detained under the care of the Priory Hospital in Cheadle. An inquest in Stockport, which concluded this week, revealed how at her most vulnerable, Beth was drawn to the darkest corners of the internet. Her death has prompted questions about the role of social media and online forums, as it emerged she had accessed a number of suicide websites in the weeks before she died. With unrelenting pressure on NHS services and mental health waiting lists, campaigners and experts have warned that more people are turning to the internet for support and advice - and the consequences can be shattering. Beth Matthews rose to internet fame after documenting a previous suicide attempt in 2019 which left her with devastating injuries. Her blog, 'Life Beyond the Ledge,' which discussed her decision to jump off a bridge, and the life-changing implications, attracted a massive online following. Following a two-week jury inquest at Stockport Coroner's Court, her family said they 'know for a fact' that Beth 'saved at least one person through her social media presence.' The charity, Mental Health UK, commended her work and advocacy in mental health. Beth empowered her friends and followers at a time when her own mental health was deteriorating. The 26-year-old had been detained under the Mental Health Act at the Priory's Cheadle Royal psychiatric hospital in May 2021. Elizabeth Matthews, 26, known as Beth (Image: Leigh Day solicitors) Originally from a small village 300 miles away in Cornwall, Beth had struggled with her mental health since her teenage years, and was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) in 2018. She had been admitted to the Priory for specialist therapy, but became consumed with thoughts of wanting to end her own life. Days after writing a tragic Twitter post to her 25,000 followers, penning that she was unable to 'see a way out', she ingested a fatal amount of a poisonous substance, which she'd ordered from Russia . Beth collapsed in front of staff after opening the package, which she said was protein power, and ingesting the substance, which the M.E.N has chosen not to name. She suffered a cardiac arrest and was rushed to Wythenshawe Hospital where she later died on March 10, last year. Following the inquest, jurors concluded that Beth died as a result of 'suicide contributed to by neglect.' Returning their findings on Thursday (January 19) they said Beth was a 'complex patient' who was considered a 'high risk of suicide.' The jury identified 'serious inconsistencies existed across all levels of management' a the Priory's Fern Unit where she was being treated. It previously emerged her care plan, which instructed parcels be opened for her, was not followed on the day of her death. The Priory Group admitted in a statement that Beth’s care plan ‘was not followed’ as it should have been on the day of her death. They accepted that ‘on the balance of probabilities if the measure related to post on Beth’s care plan was followed, she would not have ingested the substance, and would not have died as she did’. Beth Matthews with her former boyfriend Matt Parkinson (Image: Beth Matthews / Instagram) While Beth was detained under the Mental Health Act, and acknowledging that suicide is complex and often multifactorial, her case has prompted questions about the role of the internet for people with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts - particularly for vulnerable people without access to professional help. It comes as mental health campaigners told the Manchester Evening News they are turning to social media platforms and internet forums for support, with some substituting speaking to qualified medical professionals for advice online. Miss Matthew’s death has also raised further concerns about the emergence of a new trend in which a number of people in Greater Manchester, and across the UK, have died after ingesting poisonous substances purchased online. A Senior Lecturer at Salford University has warned that current pressures on the NHS could lead people in crisis to corners of the internet which, in some cases, can have dangerous consequences. Dr Mark Widdowson, who is also a practising psychotherapist, said that whilst the internet can provide a sense of belonging and community, there is also a sinister side in which people are goaded into self-harm and where suicide is glorified. 'Instagram has saved my life' John Junior is a mental health activist and script consultant from Wilmslow, and is known for appearing in the BAFTA-nominated Hollyoaks IRL episode titled Hollyoaks Saved My Life. He uses social media platforms like Instagram and the chat forum, Reddit, to connect with other like-minded people, and to create awareness for his campaigning - which is largely centred around reducing mental health waiting lists. “I turned to social media and created a bit of a bond and community with people,” he said. “It really helps you because you can relate to other people about how they are feeling. “If you follow people with conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD you feel like you’re not alone and you get reassurance. You instantly feel better. Instagram has saved my life many times over the years. Mental health activist John Junior (Image: SUBMIT PIC) “It’s getting reassurance from people. I have a panic attack every day and I go on this lady’s blog and feel better instantly. You can’t do that with a doctor. You’re waiting weeks to get an appointment so what’s the point. “I don’t even bother going to the doctors anymore and I don’t use a psychiatrist. Social media is 100 per cent a support network as long as you follow people who understand.” Tommy Hatto is a wellbeing consultant who has suffered with body image issues and eating disorders. He, like John, says he’s found social media helpful in spreading awareness, and aiding his own personal recovery. “In a weird way it’s nice to talk about how I was feeling and the struggles I’ve gone through and then other people have gone through that too,” he told the M.E.N. “It sounds strange that you’re finding comfort in other people’s pain but if everyone is being open you are in it together. Men don’t really talk about their mental health so I try to find people I can identify with who are validating the thoughts I have and make me feel like I’m not a rarity.” But Tommy says he has encountered parts of the internet which he fears could have ‘detrimental consequences’ for vulnerable young people who may not have the ability to separate safe conversation from damaging advice. Tommy Hatto “I have seen people in the comments on social media and forums not overtly saying ‘commit suicide’ but it’s been things like ‘oh you’re beyond the point of help.’ “When you are trying to search to find some sort of support system and for someone to say this type of issue is incurable or you’re past the point of help, you’re going to get even more low self-esteem from that. “I have to be in the best frame of mind to be able to start looking at things especially when I’m talking about eating disorders or body issues as they are quite tough subjects. I don’t really want to start going down these avenues if I don’t feel in the right mindset myself.” 'She used her account to reach out to those suffering' Dr Widdowson agrees that a major part of social media is the sense of belonging and the community it can create - particularly for those suffering with their mental health. “Pretty much everyone with mental health problems experiences isolation and alienation and one of the things the internet has enabled them to do is break that isolation and reach out and find other people like them,” he said. “Another thing that often happens with mental health issues is being encouraged to tell people about it, but they don’t always want to. I’m sure people have thought ‘oh my friends are sick of hearing this’ so if there are people online who you can communicate with then that’s another strength. “When people are in a mental health crisis they can reach out to someone that’s been there. It can be very different and have a powerful effect.” During the inquest at Stockport Coroner's Court, Beth Matthews' mum, Jane, told the court her daughter had gained a "massive" online following after sharing her own experiences with mental health and discussing what led to her previous suicide attempt. Beth Matthews with her sister Lucy (Image: Cornwall Live) “She touched the lives of so many people and as a result she was able to help those who reached out to her,” she said. One of those people was Sarah Page, a friend of Beth’s who met her through Twitter and also gave evidence at the inquest. “She used the account to reach out to those suffering,” Sarah said. “It was clear that she was trying to do the best with her experiences and help others. It was through this account that we met. She would talk to me about her struggles when she didn’t want to talk to anybody else.” Dr Widdowson says the social media sites accessed by Beth such as Twitter and Instagram, as well as online forums, are more often becoming a tool for people in a mental health crisis, who are sometimes turning to these platforms because they can’t get immediate access to professional support. He added: “Although the NHS staff are fantastic they are not all trained in mental health. A&E nurses are not mental health nurses. And we all know the pressure they are under. “It’s really common for people who go to A&E with mental health problems to come away feeling worse. If someone is in a state of really high distress and they have to sit in A&E for six plus hours it’s not good for them. “I do think whilst it’s not an alternative to those services, for many people they see it as a viable alternative. There’s something about social media and forums where someone can reach out and almost instantly get a response back.” Dr Mark Widdowson But Dr Widdowson warned that whilst some people on the internet have good intentions, they can be misguided and their advice can in fact be “damaging.” “Not everyone has good intentions and that’s not always obvious,” he said. “We know that people say unkind things. We are also all aware of this phenomena where people have goaded each other into self-harm and the more sinister side of things comes out where there’s a glorification of suffering and mental health problems. Whilst I can understand the appeal it’s not healthy.” Beth Matthews' inquest heard that in the two weeks leading up to her death, she had accessed online forums in which members discuss various methods of suicide. “Frequent” searches for the substance Beth ordered began from February onwards, Police Coroner’s Officer Claire Smith told the inquest. Earlier in the hearing, Coroner Andrew Bridgman said he thought it seemed “strange” that patients in mental health facilities such as The Priory had ‘unfettered access to the internet’ including “foul” sites that ‘assist and encourage’ suicide.' However David Watts, director of risk and safety for The Priory, said it was “impossible” to monitor patient’s web browsing on mobile phones, and that mental health units are left ‘playing catch-up’ in efforts to protect patients from certain online content. When the M.E.N conducted an internet search of the substance purchased by Beth, we were able to access a forum which contained over one million comments about suicide, and discusses particular methods of suicide and their effectiveness. Beth Matthews had been detained under the Mental Health Act at the Priory Hospital in Stockport at the time of her death (Image: MEN Media) Substance linked to a number of deaths in Greater Manchester Inquests into the deaths of Shaun Bass and Matthew Price in Bolton, Sam Dickenson and Kelly Walsh in Wigan have all been put on hold by coroner Timothy Brennand, whilst GMP carry out an investigation into the substance. Toxicological expert, Dr Julie Evans, who spoke at a number of the inquests, previously told Bolton Coroner’s Court how this particular substance is used as part of a ‘suicide kit’ and is a growing trend - particularly around Greater Manchester. A two-year long investigation by GMP has uncovered how this particular substance had been purchased online by countless struggling individuals across the UK and internationally. The packs were being bought from chemical companies - who have not been charged with criminal behaviour - on the advice of online forums. Greater Manchester Police has been approached for an update on this investigation but declined the M.E.N’s request for comment. Sam Dickenson, 33, who died after consuming a controlled poison in 2020 (Image: Dickenson Family) The Online Safety Bill , which has now passed through the commons, will bring in a new set of laws to protect both children and adults online, and will make social media companies more responsible for their users' safety on their platforms. Earlier this week, Rishi Sunak bowed to pressure from rebel Tory MPs to toughen up punishments for bosses who fail to protect children from harm online - particularly suicide and extreme pornography. The bill will now be amended so that bosses who ignore rules in place to protect children could be jailed. The bill promises to protect adults through a 'triple shield' by removing all illegal content, removing content that is banned by the companies' own terms and conditions, and to empower adult users with tools to tailor the type of content they see. Ian Russell, the father of schoolgirl Molly Russell , who killed herself after viewing harmful material on social media, said the threat of imprisonment is “the only thing” that will make the bosses “put safety near the top of their agenda”. An inquest into the death of Miss Russell, which concluded last year, heard how the 14-year-old, who suffered from depression, accessed material from the ‘ghetto of the online world’ before her death in November 2017. The coroner avoided concluding that the cause of Molly's death was suicide, stating that she "died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression and the negative effects of online content". Molly Russell (Image: PA) Her family argued that sites such as Pinterest and Instagram recommended accounts to the young girl that 'promoted' suicide and self-harm. Child psychiatrist Dr Venugopal told the court how, having viewed the content in his role as an expert to the court, he had difficulty sleeping for weeks. Mr Russell, who has since set up the Molly Rose Foundation, has been calling for a stronger UK online safety bill, after criticising social media platforms' responses to the coroner's report on this daughter's death. But Dr Widdowson warned that banning potentially harmful content on online forums is a ‘slippery slope’ and could create more issues in the future. He says the real change needs to come from better access to talking therapy. “I think it’s very easy to say let’s just ban these websites,” he said. “Banning them isn’t going to make them go away, they’ll pop up another way. We have to think about why these things exist in the first place and address the need for adequate services. “We need plenty of quick access to talking therapy. That’s the frontline for mental health problems. At the minute people are having to wait 10 to 18 months for just a few sessions and it’s not enough. When there’s a lack of access these forums are unfortunately going to exist. My fear is if we shut them all down it’s not dealing with the problem.” 'Online safety is one part of the picture' Mubeen Bhutta, who is Head of Policy at Samaritans, acknowledged that an issue with the current online safety bill is that there is a risk of some bits of the internet being made safer than others. “We know that the internet is really helpful for a lot of people,“ she said. “Sadly there is still a lot of stigma around self-harm so being able to talk openly in a safe way is absolutely crucial. But what we also know is that there is lots of harmful online content which is why we have been trying to influence the online safety bill. “The most regulation will be on the largest sites but we know there is lots of harmful content on smaller sites," she said. “We are calling for all parts of the internet to be protected under the bill.“ Mubeen Bhutta, Head of Policy at Samaritans Ms Bhutta has also urged caution over the bill, and says online safety is only one part of the picture when it comes to a suicide, which is extremely complex and differs from case to case. “There are all sorts of other things that need to be done in terms of supporting people,“ she said. “There is currently a huge backlog and increase in demand so the gap in services is widening even more. “We know that people are not getting support when they need it and getting pushed around the system. One of the things we would like to see is more open access support in the community. “The government is at the moment developing a new suicide prevention strategy and we would like to see the details of that as the current one is 10 years old now. Suicide rates are the same now as they were 20 years ago.“ Help and support Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch. For support for people feeling suicidal, if you are concerned about someone or if you are bereaved by suicide see http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They're open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year. Greater Manchester Bereavement Service Greater Manchester Bereavement Service can help to find support for anyone in Greater Manchester that has been bereaved or affected by a death. No one needs to feel alone as they deal with their grief. www.greater-manchester-bereavement-service.org.uk Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal. Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/ Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org For information and links to charities and organisations that can help with substance abuse, visit https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/ The North-West based suicide-prevention charity, Papyrus, lists mental health failings, online dangers such as suicide forums, and relentless social media among the many overwhelming pressures faced by vulnerable children and young people. Chief executive of Papyrus, Ged Flynn, said: “We are always concerned by stories of children and young people who have died by suicide and the extent to which these often seem to include real issues of reduced access to quality health care that they deserve. “Meanwhile, those who peddle the gratuitous promotion of self-harm and suicide content online must weigh up the consequences before putting their work before the public, particularly young people and those who may be vulnerable. “We believe many suicides can be prevented and we all have a role to play in making our communities suicide-safe. Young people need to know they are not alone and that professional help and advice is available right now. “There is nothing better in our darkest hour to have a conversation with a person who can help us to navigate emotional distress. Our trained advisors are a lifeline to young people, their parents, family and friends when suicidal thinking becomes a reality.” Ged Flynn 'Support is available even if services seem busy' Steve Dixon, chief delivery officer for NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care, said: “We know the impact of mental ill health can be huge and with it can come risks of isolation and loneliness. We would encourage anyone experiencing difficulties with their mental health to seek help from the NHS as soon as they can. There are a number of services people can access for support including self-referring for NHS Talking Therapies via https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/ or speaking directly to their GP for help and advice. “Where people feel they need to access mental health in a crisis or emergency, we would encourage them to seek immediate expert advice and assessment. It's important to know that support is available, even if services seem busy at the moment. “Go to In Your Area - Mental Health ( gmintegratedcare.org.uk ) or call freephone 0800 953 0285 (if you’re in Bolton, Manchester, Salford, Trafford or Wigan) or 0800 014 9995 ( if you’re in Bury, Heywood, Middleton & Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport and Tameside & Glossop). You can also contact the Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone) if you need to talk to someone urgently about how you are feeling. If there is an immediate risk of danger to life, you should ring 999.” A government spokesperson said: “Anyone receiving treatment in an inpatient mental health facility deserves to receive safe, high-quality care and to be looked after with dignity and respect. It’s vitally important that we learn from any mistakes made in Beth’s case to improve care across the NHS and protect patients in the future. “There is already work underway to improve the way we safeguard patients, ensuring that they receive high-quality care and we are increasing investment in mental health services by over £2 billion a year by 2024. “Beth’s heart-breaking story also highlights the need for our pioneering Online Safety Bill, which forces tech firms to tackle content that encourages or assists suicide and self-harm on their platforms.” Previous day's evidence at the Beth Matthews' inquest

Priory Group Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • When was Priory Group founded?

    Priory Group was founded in 1980.

  • Where is Priory Group's headquarters?

    Priory Group's headquarters is located at Middleton St. George Hospital, Darlington.

  • What is Priory Group's latest funding round?

    Priory Group's latest funding round is Acq - Fin.

  • Who are the investors of Priory Group?

    Investors of Priory Group include Waterland Private Equity Investments and Acadia Healthcare.

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