In 2004 I spent a month in the Priory being treated for depression.
It was the lowest point of my life and I really couldn’t see a way out of the black hole.
But I had a brilliant psychiatrist, supportive fellow patients and an extensive treatment programme.
It was shockingly pricey, though, more than £600 a day, but private health insurance paid.
Wealthy celebs coughed up a fortune for rehab and the US sent traumatised servicemen based in Europe for treatment.
I also met people who’d spent their life savings on what we jokingly dubbed The Funny Farm.
Because it was clearly a Money Farm too. But I was just grateful that it helped me.
In the years since, I’ve met several people with very different experiences and professionals with real concern about falling standards.
And this week I wept as the mother of troubled Amy El-Keria described how her 14-year-old daughter hanged herself while in the “care” of the Priory at its Ticehurst House hospital in East Sussex in 2012.
An inquest later found a catalogue of errors and neglect involving untrained staff. And now the Priory Group has admitted guilt in Amy’s death and been fined £300,000.
Her mother Tania says the firm is “morally bankrupt” for putting “profit before safety.”
And she rightly asks why the Priory Group, which made operating profits of £62.2million in 2017, is still getting paid millions of pounds to treat NHS patients.
Our mental health services have been devastated by cuts and bed numbers have plummeted by 30 per cent in a decade.
We have fewer mental health nurses and trainee psychiatrists too.
Yet the Priory Group gets paid £720million in contracts from local authorities and the NHS.
In 2017 Theresa May said: “Tackling the injustice of mental illness is one of my absolute priorities.”
Then she must stop paying the Money Farm and start funding proper NHS services – to help more people out of the black hole of depression.
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