The perception of Muslims as “suspicious communities” in the United Kingdom is confirmed by the issue of national security and counter-terrorism. But as a result of these actions, the recent shift to mental health is creating a new, dangerous practice.
Last month, Medact published a report identifying a mental health project run by the UK Counter-Terrorism Police called Vulnerability Centers. Despite the name, these knots are not about care. Instead, they enable the police to more easily track down, manage perceived risk, and obtain confidential health information.
The nodes were set up in 2016 as police noticed that about half of the people on the Extremism Program seemed to be in good mental health. Racial groups, especially Muslims, are also marked by gross disproportionate speed.
As a pre-investigation program, “Prevention” referrals are made only on the basis of suspicion or speculation. However, the police refuse to see these statistics, which almost certainly reflects. Widespread Islamophobia, which links Muslims to terrorism, is accompanied by a long-standing stigma that puts people with mental health problems at risk.
Instead, the police interpreted these statistics as solid evidence of an alleged, but never proven, link between poor mental health and terrorism. However, it is not only those with poor mental health who are suspicious. In particular, Muslims with mental health problems are under the control of this program.
This means that these so-called “Vulnerability Aid Centers”, which have been operating in almost complete secrecy for five years, can harm people with real mental health, criminalize or suspect poor mental health among Muslims.
This is because at key points, people sent to Prevention և suspected of having a mental health condition are evaluated by NHS mental health professionals involved in counterterrorism units. These assessments often seem to happen together with the police or “Prevent” officers. Security personnel whose presence alone may affect the clinical diagnosis and treatment.
In addition, the nodes provide a vehicle through which anti-terrorism police can influence mental health providers who are already treating patients. Risk assessment is a standard part of a psychiatrist’s responsibilities, but Prevent’s pre-crime approach brings into question uncertain racist factors.
For example, a case study in the report details how the police, on the basis of “unacceptable anonymities”, try to “secure admission” and prevent a psychologist who had previously undergone home treatment. In two other cases, the police considered converting to Islam a potential problem.
Perhaps even more troubling is the possibility that these “Vulnerability Support Centers” could pathologize Muslim political agency և dissent.
Many of the people assessed by the nodes do not have a diagnosable mental illness and are therefore considered “unfit for basic services”. But the nodes operate in terms of “mental health”, “complex needs”, “behavioral-emotional difficulties” with such broad definitions that, unlike basic mental health services, their thresholds are too low.
This becomes worrying when it is considered that drugs are being abused as a tool of social control. In the Soviet Union, political dissidents were told they had “slow schizophrenia” and were often imprisoned for long periods of time. Such systematic abuse of psychiatry led to the development of codes of ethics for the profession.
The documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Survey, on which we based our report, suggest that mental health professionals can be involved in effective eradication, which goes far beyond their health responsibilities. Particularly in view of the dubious scientific validity and effectiveness of the practice of such concepts, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ warning that so-called radicalization is not a “mental illness” should be heeded.
Nodes raise other serious ethical concerns that address broader issues related to health care and beyond.
They raise questions about possible coercion և the apparent use of medicine as a security device to strengthen cooperation with the wave of the police eradication system.
They reinforce the neoliberal state’s refusal to provide adequate funding for mental health care at the same time as invasive surveillance intensifies.
They emphasize the depth of institutionalized racism, why we should not be surprised that racialized minorities do not trust health services, and why racialized health inequalities only deepen over time if policies such as prevention and hostility are not prevented.
Despite the lack of an independent assessment, “Vulnerability Support Centers” are now widely distributed under the so-called “Project Project Cicero” by the police. Previously operating only in England and Wales, it was recently introduced in Scotland. As the UK is a leading exporter of counterterrorism innovations, the centers could be a source of concern for counter-terrorism police and crime police around the world.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al Jazeera.