A new campaign to stop the over-policing of mental health crises has launched

Several sheets of paper saying "Madness is not a crime" in red lettering

StopSIM Coalition is running a petition to “halt the development and rollout” of an NHS scheme that puts police at the heart of mental health-related decisions. The coalition says the scheme “has the effect of criminalising mental distress”. And it’s demanding that the roll-out stops immediately.

Grave concerns

Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) responds to a pattern that sees a small number of people requiring the greatest degree of help from mental health services. High Intensity Network, which connects SIM teams, says the model provides an “integrated, informed, calm approach” that:

is led principally by a mental health professional (who leads clinically) and a police officer (who leads on behaviour, community safety, risk and impact).

And “over 40 crisis care organisations” have adopted the SIM model since 2013.

But StopSIM Coalition says it has “grave concerns” about the model, in particular the:

co-ordinated withholding of potentially life saving treatment by multiple agencies (A&E, mental health, ambulance and police services) and, using SIM’s own words, the “coercive” approach of a police officer as an interventionist.

Significantly, the coalition says that SIM is designed for people that haven’t committed a crime but are at “high-risk of suicide and self-harm”. And Disability News Service said that SIM could encourage service users to “hide their self-harm and suicide attempts”. As a result, StopSIM Coalition believes that the model “contravenes both the Equality Act (2010) and the Human Rights Act (1998)”.

“We are yet to receive a response”

On 29 April, Disability News Service reported that head of High Intensity Network and SIM model creator Paul Jennings believed:

some of the criticism of SIM was unfair, but he admitted there was a need for an independent review of the programme.

Jennings described SIM as a “well thought-through, well-intentioned, good balance of risk management” model, produced in collaboration with service users.

StopSIM Coalition comprises mental health service users and their allies. It launched following the emergence of “high level discussions” about the SIM model that the coalition says has repeatedly ignored its concerns:

And now the campaign is urging everyone to contact their MP about SIM’s problem.

Early success

On 6 May, Disability News Service reported that since the coalition’s launch, both Surrey Police and Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said they will look at concerns with SIM. And on the same day, the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said it would prepare “listening events for people to voice their concerns”. However, NHS England is yet to acknowledge those same concerns.

The police’s increasing presence in mental health response is a threat to many living with mental health issues. StopSIM Coalition is holding accountable a model that effectively criminalises the most vulnerable. And with nearly 4,000 signatures already on the petition, it appears as though many people agree.

Main image via StopSIM Coalition