Nauru: "Even animals are better treated than us"

08 Nov 2018

MSF psychiatrist Dr Carolyne Lima shares her experiences providing much needed mental health care on Nauru to asylum seekers and refugees.


They were disrespected, they say this very clear, ‘Even animals are better treated than us.’ So, how can you feel respected as a human being?

So, my name is Carolyne and I’m a psychiatrist, a childhood and adolescent psychiatrist. 

There is no therapeutic solution about mental health if they are stuck there. And they say it in such a clear way, ‘This is violation of my human rights. I am a child, I was supposed to go to the school. I used to have dreams but all of them are burned here.’ And it’s true.

And in the same way they say, ‘I arrived [when I was] seven or I arrived [when I was] five, I lost all my childhood.’ It’s true also. 

So you listen to all of these histories over, and over, and over, about a loss of a period of life you cannot come back. You cannot come back in time, it’s impossible and for sure they lose a very important time of their life.

They are put into a lot of bullying situations in that community.

They couldn’t remember their names for a while because they were called by numbers. We are talking about human beings. We are talking about losing their humanity. This is a person that is seven years, or five, how is it possible to keep having hope in something when you forgot who you are?  

I have a child who is 11 that I think had the perfect description. She told me, ‘You know when a flower starts losing the leaves in the autumn? Yeah, this is how I feel but there is no spring. There is no possibility, I lose everything I have, all my hopes fell.