Tonight at a Melbourne detention centre a man sat on a bench next to me and sobbed silently, his whole body shaking. He asked me to visit his house to see his daughter and mother. He led me to his donga door and with a shushing finger to his lips, pointed at a small red balloon on the bed saying that it was his baby daughter and that she was sleeping. Next to the red balloon lay a green balloon. He told me that this is his mother and that she is crying because his brother has been killed by the militia. He said that his brother was with Jesus and that he wanted to go to Jesus too.

Yesterday after discussions with the Human Rights team, he went to his room and took an overdose of tablets. He was found by a visitor lying on the floor with his feet hanging out the door. The visitor thought that he was dead at first and checked his pulse. He was unconscious. The day before he had begged a staff member to kill him.

Today he can hardly walk unaided as he is heavily sedated. He has not been to hospital but has been placed on PSP (Psychological Support Program formerly SASH- Suicide and Self Harm). I told the Serco officer that this did not constitute treatment, just surveillance. He agreed but could do nothing else. A staff member told me that he had just seen a psychiatrist on site. I reminded her that the man was clearly experiencing hallucinations and psychosis and under the guidelines should not remain in detention.

At Reception I checked the staff sign on book with a senior Serco officer for IHMS staff on duty that day. IHMS is the contractor providing health services. No psychiatrist or psychologist had been on site that afternoon. It was unclear who assessed this man as psychologically fit enough to remain in detention. He is certainly so sedated that he would be unable to harm himself. He is chemically restrained from physical harm but this does not alleviate the terrible mental pain which is torturing his mind. Guards stand at arm’s length to back up the drugs.

He has been quietly compliant until now but after nearly three years in detention his mind has broken.

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