The notion and illustration of Muslims as a “suspect group” in terms of nationwide safety and counterterrorism in the UK is well-established. However a newer flip inside these operations in the direction of psychological well being is creating new, harmful practices.
Final month, Medact launched a report through which it uncovered a psychological well being challenge run by UK counterterrorism police known as “Vulnerability Help Hubs”. Regardless of the title, these hubs will not be about care. As a substitute, they allow police to surveil, handle perceived threat, and entry confidential well being data extra simply.
The hubs had been established in 2016 as a result of police seen that roughly half of the individuals reported to its counter-extremism programme, Stop, appeared to have a psychological well being situation. Racialised teams, particularly Muslims, are additionally referred at a grossly disproportionate fee.
As a pre-crime programme, referrals to Stop are made on the premise of suspicion and hypothesis alone. But police refuse to see these statistics for what they nearly actually replicate: widespread Islamophobia which associates Muslims with terrorism, mixed with a longstanding stigma that portrays individuals with psychological well being issues as harmful.
As a substitute, police interpreted these statistics as supporting proof of a presumed – however by no means robustly evidenced – hyperlink between poor psychological well being and terrorism. Not simply anybody with poor psychological well being is suspect, nonetheless. Muslims with psychological well being issues, particularly, fall beneath the scrutiny of this programme.
Which means these so-called “Vulnerability Help Hubs” – which operated in near-total secrecy for 5 years – could also be harming individuals with real psychological well being circumstances, and criminalising, or rendering suspect, poor psychological well being amongst Muslims.
This occurs as a result of, on the hubs, individuals who have been referred to Stop and are suspected of getting a psychological well being situation are assessed by NHS psychological well being professionals embedded inside counterterrorism items. These assessments typically seem to occur alongside police or Stop officers: safety personnel whose presence alone could affect medical prognosis and the therapeutic encounter.
On prime of this, the hubs present a car by which counterterrorism police can affect psychological healthcare suppliers who’re already treating sufferers. Threat assessments are an ordinary a part of psychiatrists’ duties, however Stop’s pre-crime method brings imprecise and racialised components into play.
For instance, one case research within the report particulars how police sought to “safe admission and forestall discharge” of a person experiencing psychosis who had beforehand been receiving house therapy, on the premise of “unacceptable unknowns”. In two different instances, police listed conversion to Islam as a related concern.
A maybe much more disturbing risk is that these “Vulnerability Help Hubs” could also be pathologising Muslim political company and dissent.
Lots of the individuals assessed by the hubs would not have diagnosable psychological diseases and are due to this fact deemed “unsuitable for mainstream providers”. However the hubs function with such broad definitions of “psychological well being”, “complicated wants” and “behavioural and emotional difficulties” that – in distinction to mainstream psychological well being providers – their thresholds are extraordinarily low.
This turns into worrying when contemplating the potential for drugs to be misused as a software for social management. Within the Soviet Union, political dissidents had been labelled as affected by “sluggish schizophrenia” and sometimes incarcerated for lengthy durations. Such systematic abuse of psychiatry was the rationale codes of ethics had been developed for the occupation.
Paperwork obtained by way of Freedom of Data requests on which we primarily based our report recommend that psychological well being practitioners could also be partaking in what’s successfully “deradicalisation” – a observe properly past their healthcare remit. Particularly given the doubtful scientific validity and efficacy of such ideas and practices, the Royal Faculty of Psychiatrists’ warning that so-called radicalisation is “not a psychological sickness” must be heeded.
The hubs increase a number of different severe moral issues that epitomise wider issues with the Stop coverage in healthcare and past.
They pose questions on potential coercion and the obvious use of drugs as a safety gadget to implement cooperation with the police deradicalisation scheme Channel.
They spotlight the neoliberal state’s withdrawal from adequately funding psychological healthcare at the exact same time that invasive surveillance is stepped up.
They underline simply how deeply racism is institutionalised, why we shouldn’t be shocked that racialised minorities mistrust healthcare providers, and why racialised well being inequalities will solely deepen with time – until insurance policies like Stop and the hostile atmosphere are dismantled.
Regardless of the shortage of an unbiased analysis, “Vulnerability Help Hubs” are at present being rolled out nationwide beneath what police name “Challenge Cicero”. Having beforehand solely operated in England and Wales, they had been not too long ago launched in Scotland too. Because the UK is a number one exporter of improvements within the subject of counterextremism, the hubs could properly augur a troubling route for counterterrorism policing and pre-crime policing internationally.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.