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In November 2017, Médecins Sans Frontières started providing free psychological and psychiatric services in the Republic of Nauru. 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.

The mental health needs in Nauru are significant and the services currently available are insufficient.

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 in a formal report, published in December 2018. 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.

An MSF mental health team member attends to a patient in Nauru

In agreement with the Ministry of Health, and the Nauruan Government's policy, we began providing "One Door For All" psychological and psychiatric services at the end of 2017, to everyone living in the Republic of Nauru. The team conducted outreach activities to promote the services that were being provided, increase the awareness of mental health issues and try to reduce stigma attached to seeking treatment.

The program followed a number of visits to the island over the previous two years, where Médecins Sans Frontières identified gaps in the provision of mental health support and subsequently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nauruan Ministry of Health in June 2017.

On 5 October 2018, after 11 months of providing mental health care on Nauru, the Nauruan government informed Médecins Sans Frontières that our services were “no longer required” and requested that our activities cease within 24 hours.

MSF's press conference in Sydney following closure of its Nauru mental health services

In a press conference on 11 October, 2018, Médecins Sans Frontières strongly condemned the government of Nauru’s sudden decision to cease the provision of desperately needed mental health care provided by MSF to asylum seekers, refugees and the local community on Nauru. The team described the mental health situation of refugees on the island as “beyond desperate” and called for the immediate evacuation of all asylum seekers and refugees from the island and for an end to the Australian offshore detention policy.

The patients we have been forced to leave behind need you. Please add your voice to our call.

MSF's press conference in Canberra following the release of our report about mental health in Nauru

MSF strongly reiterates its urgent call for the Australian government to end this policy and immediately evacuate all refugees and asylum seekers – men, women and children from Nauru to avoid further deterioration of their health.

Find out more about Nauru