When working and oppressed people come together, we are as capable of toppling capitalism as we are of toppling statues.
We object in the strongest terms to the Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) programme, which is currently being operated in 23 out of 52 NHS trusts, with plans for continued rollout.
SIM is marketed as a cost-saving measure which works by reducing the use of NHS services by so-called “high intensity users” — that is, frequent users of emergency and mental health services. Based on the sadistic logic that self-harm and suicidal behaviour is “attention-seeking,” SIM attempts to actively discourage such people from contacting or seeking help from NHS services, considering their engagement an “unnecessary financial burden.” This is in direct opposition to the standard advice to call emergency services if feeling suicidal.
To make matters worse, a key aspect of SIM is the employment of so-called “high intensity officers” (HIOs) under NHS contracts. These are police officers who have taken a three-day crash course taught by Paul Jennings, a former police sergeant, who founded the “High Intensity Network” with his wife. These officers are given full access to service users’ medical records, and are also able to share police records with medical staff.
Very simply, their role is to coercively prevent “high intensity users” from accessing mental health services until they stop “demonstrating intensive patterns of demand.” This is under the implicit or explicit threat of legal repercussions, such as the use of Community Behaviour Orders — which can lead up to 5 years in prison if the service user refuses to cooperate with authorities.
This repugnant system represents the expansion of the carceral state in Britain. In particular, because people with BPD diagnoses have been explicitly highlighted in some SIM reporting, we point to the long-standing use of BPD diagnosis to pathologise and isolate women of colour who do not comply with the strictures of healthcare professionals. The carceral approach to mental health care has also been specifically weaponised by the British police against people of colour (which we can see in their treatment of Osime Brown, Kingsley Burrell and others). These examples clearly show the ways in which SIM will undoubtedly be used, not only to harm members of marginalised communities, but to strengthen the very structures that marginalise them in the first place.
Disability justice is central to the struggle against police violence and incarceration. It is our hope that those fighting for disabled liberation and those opposing the expansion of police powers as part of the “Kill the Bill” movement can find common cause in opposing the rollout of SIM and organising to destroy it in places that have adopted it.
As of present, the “High Intensity Network” — the company responsible for devising SIM and training HIOs — has seemingly vanished from social media after receiving increased public scrutiny. Whilst this may seem like a victory, we fully expect this project to reemerge under a different name once the heat has cooled off. We owe it to our disabled comrades to remain vigilant and to struggle against it, whenever it reappears and however it attempts to disguise itself when it does.
We would not be aware of SIM’s rollout if not for the efforts of the StopSIM campaign, who have compiled a list of local NHS trusts and relevant bodies which have already established a SIM team over the past three years. We urge full support of this campaign: we must reject the criminalisation of disability, resist the expansion of the British carceral state, and definitively #StopSIM.