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People in detention centres in Australia should be monitored for mental health issues!

February 17, 2014

I have just come to know about the sad death of a 27 years old Indian student, who was in Maribyrnong immigration detention Centre in Melbourne since Jan 2014. He was a University student and was in the Detention Centre because his Visa was cancelled for breach of Visa conditions. Details of his Visa situations are not clear.

Yesterday, he was found in an unconscious state. He later died. His death is not being considered suspicious, which usually means that he committed suicide. Further details are not known at this stage.

It is a sad news for anyone, but obviously for his parents and family. Our hearts go out to them. R.I.P!

It is well known that detention is a stressful situation and it creates distress and mental health issues for detainees. Mental health issues are number one health issues in Detention centres.

While no Govt can close detention centres, and detainees will continue to be detained for various reasons, they certainly can ensure proper pastoral care and monitoring of mental health issues among detainees. Staff in these centres must be properly trained to look for any sign of severe distress and depression.

I understand, and believe firmly, that authorities have “Duty of Care” to those who are in any custody-Mental Health institutions, Hospitals, Police Lock-up places, Prisons and Detention Centres. Duty of Care also includes reasonable monitoring of signs & symptoms of distress and depression, and providing assistance and counselling to prevent self-harm or harm to others.

Recently, IHAG (Immigration Health Advisory Group), comprising of GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists, Social workers, Counsellors, has been replaced with a single advisor. I hope this will not impact on the care of people in detention.
We are a caring society, and must continue to remain so, within the constraints of our means and resources, while dealing with vulnerable people, and people in custody.

In regards to this particular unfortunate case, a thorough investigation should be done, which I believe is happening, to figure out all aspects of the case.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/14th Feb, 2014

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