Tasmanian Times

Media Release

Manus mental health crisis; Labor must back Phelps’ bill

There are now almost daily suicide attempts among refugees on Manus Island, and no medical facilities to cope with the crisis.


The small Pacific International Hospital (PIH) at the East Lorengau compound has only one room to treat emergency patients, so there is no place to care for in-patients, so they are returned unsupervised to their rooms.


The Lorengau general hospital turns away mental health patients, saying they can only deal with physical problems.


After days of pleading with the clinic at Eats Lorengau, five people were eventually sent from Manus to PIH in Port Moresby on 30 November. The list of very mentally unwell people in PIH Port Moresby is growing, but they are transferred only when the situation on Manus becomes critical.


Self-immolation attempts have become common in East Lorengau.


On Monday (3 December), there were three suicide attempts. One Afghan refugee (who had attempted to hang himself the day before), swallowed shampoo and overdosed. He was taken to the clinic at East Lorengau.


While in East Lorengau compound one man severely self-harmed, while another poured petrol over himself and attempted to set himself alight.


The acute mental health cases are the tip of the iceberg, of the crisis that other refugees themselves are trying to manage. At least one refugee in East Lorengau is suffering a complete mental break, experiencing hallucination and exhibiting frightening paranoid behaviour.


“While politicians in Canberra are twiddling their thumbs counting down the days til the end of the parliamentary, refugees on Manus are counting the casualties of offshore detention,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.


“With Labor’s support, Kerryn Phelps’ ‘Urgent Medical Treatment bill’ can make sure that refugees can get the treatment they need. Court orders have been needed to get sick scores of sick children and their families off Nauru. Similar action has been needed to get three desperately sick men off Manus.


“Labor has already made it clear that they do not support the Home Affairs Minister interfering with doctor’s recommendations for medical treatment. Labor’s support can help make that law, and help end the medical crisis on Manus and Nauru.”

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. max

    December 5, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Of Manus Island I know nothing, but having worked on Nauru I can comment. It is no island paradise, indeed quite the reverse.

    We have imprisoned desert-living people on tropical islands, in sweltering humidity with no hope of release, and we call ourselves Christians.

    These were desperate people trying to escape from their war-torn countries, countries that had a high standard of living prior to America and Australia reducing their countries back to the stone age.

    Why did we do it? For their oil with the excuse of non-existing weapons of mass destruction? We then used our weapons of mass destruction to destroy their way of life and reduce their countries into seething cauldrons of problems for the rest of the world.

    We have imprisoned these desperate people who were risking their lives, and their families lives, in a desperate attempt for a way of life that we took away from them.

    While we are spending billions of dollars imprisoning these people to protect our shores, we are letting criminals use false passports and fake visas to come here unhindered.

    The moral of this is .. if you are criminal with money we will welcome you. If you are person whose country was destroyed by us, on a pretext, and you are desperate enough to put your family on an unseaworthy leaking boat, then we will lo

  2. spikey

    December 5, 2018 at 5:59 am

    Too often have I read about compassion and empathy, described as Indulgence Capitalism, by an inconsequential ideological professional troll who clearly doesn’t comprehend most of the words he uses, especially Sustainable Practice.

  3. Alison Bleaney

    December 4, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    ‘But it will be never be enough for people who congenitally cannot tell the difference between compassion and indulgence, or empathy and an ideological suck who cannot differentiate sustainable practice and inconsequential thinking!’

    God help us all from this self important pontificating!

    • Christopher Eastman-Nagle

      December 6, 2018 at 9:15 am

      I think what you really, really trying to say is ‘God help us from a thought out sustained argument that I cannot be bothered to address when vacant attitudinising will do’.

  4. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    December 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    The trouble with the social end of modern psychology/psychiatry and health science is that it is always at some ideological, political and moral hazard; ie, that ideological and moral judgement can very easily muddy the scientific waters and pollute them into pseudo-science in the service of sectional interests and their ideological agendas.

    Gender, sexuality and sex are subject areas notorious for this, as transgender advocates have got into psychiatry peak associations and forced through shifts in the definition and application of gender dysphoria that favour their ideological construction of so called sexual ‘non-binarism’.

    Such fudging was particularly notable when in 2011, the former Victorian premier, Jeff Kennett, and then chairman of an anti-depression outreach service, had the temerity to suggest that marriage was a male to female institution. A whole gaggle of senior health science industry graduates ganged up on him and made the extremely tendentious suggestion that he was ‘exacerbating’ the condition of ‘vulnerable’ and depressed homosexual clients of ‘Beyond Blue’, by denying their right to married happiness. Kennett was forced to recant not so much by the idiocy of this narrative, as the promise of a sustained attack on his position in an organization he had helped found.

    When humanities driven medical and health organizations address the ideologically charged subject of refugee/asylum seekers, one can confidently predict that such conflation of science, politics, ideology and moral judgement will be an inevitable outcome as they work each other up into a diagnostic lather of hand wringing compassion and humanist prejudices, where everyone leaves their critical judgement outside the confines of their professional groupthink.

    When such organizations enter such a highly charged psychological/political space, they are blithely unaware that they are entering into a looped dance of cause and effect between them and their putative ‘clients’ in the camps. The clients are not just passive victims of suicidal thoughts and depression. The medical/health professionals are as much a political/ideological rescue service as a medical one.

    Driving the present psychiatric ‘crisis’ on Nauru and Manus are very compelling political agendas on both sides, that are only tangentially medical.

    Statements to the effect that there is an emerging psychological ’emergency’ within the encampments is not literally untrue. The detainees have been stuck for years waiting to get into Australia. They have gambled everything they have and don’t have to get as far as they have.

    The snakeheads charge around $8,000 per head for a passage in a leaky old fishing vessel that will last just long enough to either break down or sink in Australian territorial waters, where the stupid Australians have to rescue them. So these people really are desperate. A lot of them will be heavily in debt to their families and money lenders. They will never be able to repay if they settle in Cambodia or New Guinea.

    The enormous gamble will have been for nothing, unless they can work sympathetic dickheads constituencies in Australia. They have tried sewing up lips, hunger striking, rioting and now….depression and suicidal thoughts….Bingo!

    Depression is all the rage right now in Australia as the dysfunctional remnants of its social infrastructure and governance continue to implode. Everybody who is anybody is suffering from PTSD…

    Back in the ’80s, when I was a welfare counsellor for a teachers’ organization, ‘stress’ became the buzzword de jour. I would refer stressed teachers to our pet psychiatrist who would ask them if they were stressed, they said yes and he gave them a medical certificate which, with a bit of luck, would relieve them from the miseries of an all too tenured profession, by superannuating them out of the industry. It became a very popular strategy indeed….which is not to say teaching isn’t ‘stressful’. It is, as is being stuck on Manus and Nauru.

    But the real giveaway isn’t having suicidal thoughts and ‘attempting’ suicide and/or self harm, but actual suicides. If you are in a refugee camp in Lebanon where everyone is living on a subsistence knife edge, no one bothers with self harming or suicidal thoughts. If you do an ineffectual suicide attempt or self harm, the chances are that the medical facilities are so ridiculously under pressure, they may not be able to fix the injuries. And such behaviour will very likely be regarded by all the other equally hard up denizens as self indulgent baloney.

    So if it all really does get too hard, one does not botch the job.

    In Lebanon, there isn’t a rescue service that will come to someone’s emotional rescue. So there is no point in behavioral theatrics, which doesn’t mean that people in the camps there aren’t having a very tough life, which is not a problem on Nauru and Manus. There, the stupid Australians spend well over $100,000 per person per day to keep the air conditioners on. In Lebanon it is $4.00.

    On the face of it, if you were a refugee stuck in a camp, where would you rather be?

    The reality is that the real debate is not about the psycho-medical condition of the people stuck on Nauru and Manus. The real debate is about protecting our borders on the one hand vs compassion for designated official poor-things-who-we-must-help on the other. We can do both to a limited extent, but it will be never be enough for people who congenitally cannot tell the difference between compassion and indulgence, or empathy and an ideological suck who cannot differentiate sustainable practice and inconsequential thinking!

    Multiculturalism is a huge gamble and not controlling our borders is guaranteed way to stuff it up and bring on a local identitarian backlash that our grandchildren will have to wrestle with, as they already are in Europe and the US, as we speak. And the ONLY reason we aren’t suffering from such disorders is that we have controlled our borders. And the local regime humanitarian tweet hearts are as much in denial about this as their regime corporate opposite numbers are about ecological and economic governance sustainability.

    Medical emergency on Manus and Nauru? My arse!

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