Jan 2019 | Exclusive: Nauru's prescription drug records reveal mental health 'crisis'

Date: 17 Jan 2019

Source: SBS

Dr Beth O’Connor has seen firsthand the impact offshore detention can have on a detainee’s mental health.

The psychiatrist worked for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on the island of Nauru for 11 months up to September last year.

“We treated 208 refugee and asylum seeker patients, and of those patients, 62 per cent had moderate or severe depression, 25 per cent had anxiety disorders and 18 per cent had post-traumatic stress disorder,” she told SBS News.

It comes as no surprise to her then when documents obtained by SBS News showing the extent of medical efforts to treat detainees on the island are presented. 

The 161 pages of unredacted information from the Department of Home Affairs, granted under Freedom of Information laws, show over 10,000 single instances of a medical drug being handed out over a 10-month period from 1 January to 5 November last year.

Most were anti-depressants such as Sertraline, Mirtazapine, Fluoxetine or anti-psychotic medications including Aripiprazole and Olanzapine.

Of the patients MSF saw, “60 per cent of them had suicidal thoughts and 30 per cent had made a suicide attempt,” Dr O’Connor said, adding that she thought the situation had deteriorated since last year and was now at a “crisis point”.