The lack of mental health support available affects both the Nauruan population and the asylum seekers and refugees living on the island as part of the Australian government’s policy of offshore processing.
Our teams identified cases of schizophrenia and family violence, and concerning levels of depression in Nauru, especially among children. Asylum seekers and refugees had been on the island for up to five years with little or no hope of finding a place of safe resettlement.
In agreement with the Ministry of Health, we started providing ‘one door for all’ psychological and psychiatric services at the end of 2017.
In an abrupt about-face, it was announced in October 2018 that our services were “no longer required” and we were ordered to leave the island.
In February 2019, we launched a free tele-mental health service, providing psychological support to former patients including Nauruan nationals, asylum-seeker and refugee patients. The remote service is a medical commitment by MSF to provide continuity of care to former patients who remain highly vulnerable on Nauru. However, two weeks later, the Nauruan government banned telemedicine in the country, once again forcing MSF to suspend services.
Welcome to Nauru
Since 2013, Australia's "offshore processing" policy has mandated that people seeking safety in Australia by boat be processed outside the country. Australia pays Nauru to host these individuals, couples and families.
After years confined to this tiny Island, hope of a free future is running thin and mental health is deteriorating fast.
This short explains the situation and MSF's efforts to provide mental healthcare to local Nauruans and to refugees and asylum seekers held on the island.