A jury has found that a mental health bogger was failed by the psychiatric hospital she was admitted to after she swallowed a poisonous substance. Bett Matthews, 26, died in spring 2022 after buying the substance online and telling staff at the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal in Stockport that it was protein powder.
The full inquest into the death of mental health blogger and advocate began on Monday (9 January) at Manchester South Coroner’s Court. At the end of the inquiry, the jury concluded that she died from suicide contributed to by neglect.
Who was Beth Matthews?
Matthews was a 26 year old mental health blogger originally from Cornwall who was being treated on a secure ward at the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal, Heald Green. Under the Mental Health Act, Matthews had been detained and transferred to the psychiatric hospital for specialist Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).
Following an unsuccessful attempt to take her own life in April 2019, Matthews suffered from a number of life changing injuries, including “nerve damage, broken bones, paralysed bladder, paralysed bowel, paralysed foot [and] chronic pain” according to a tweet she posted in February 2022.
Matthews shared her journey on the road to recovery and her experiences with mental health on her blog, Life Beyond the Ledge. It was through her blog that Matthews garnered a large following on social media, with nearly 26,000 followers on Twitter.
After her death, her sister, Lucy, told the Plymouth Herald: “Beth was very well known in the mental health world and known for inspiring and helping other people a lot. She was absolutely amazing, she was funny, had an amazing sense of humour.
“She was very intelligent, and a very active person. We did a lot of bike rides together before she became poorly, and she also did a lot of sailing. Beth was the youngest person to do the Fastnet race from Plymouth aged 15. She was an incredible sailor, and of course writer.”
Matthews passed away on 21 March 2022, shortly after swallowing a substance she had ordered online, which she told staff was protein powder. The court heard that paramedics were called on the day following reports that Matthews had taken an overdose.
Assistant Coroner Andrew Bridgman told the jury that Matthews had “ingested a substance that came through the post, quite quickly became unwell, was taken urgently to hospital where she sadly died”. Matthews was pronounced dead at 3:55pm at Wythenshawe hospital.
Dr Susan Kirk, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Wythenshawe Hospital, said that it was in her opinion that Matthews suffered from a cardiac arrest due to “poisoning” from the unnamed substance.
Kate Barnes, a paramedic, said in a statement that when she arrived at the unit, staff told her that Matthews had “had a parcel delivered to the unit, which she opened in front of them and managed to consume”. The parcel held a “small plastic, screw top container”.
The inquest heard that Matthews had ingested “an unknown amount” of the unidentified substance, with Barnes explaining that she was told that patients were permitted to open their own parcels whilst being supervised by the staff. The jury heard that the package had “foreign writing on it” and that the substance had been purchased “on the internet”.
A statement from Matthews’ mother, Jane, was also read out to the court, in which she said her daughter was “an incredible character” who was “bright and vivacious” and “would light up the lives of everyone she met”. She was also described as “caring, intelligent and articulate”.
Her mother added that Matthews “never reached her potential due to the mental illness which overshadowed her later years”, however “people were attracted to her personality” which was evidenced by “the huge Twitter following she gained”.
“She touched the lives of so many people,” she said. “And as a result she was able to help those who reached out to her.”
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