There have been 26 cases of children self-harming at a single asylum seeker detention centre in Darwin in the past 16 months. And disturbingly some of these children are as young as nine-years-old.
Child psychiatrists have issued warnings for the past 10 years that keeping children in detention centres would likely have negative consequences for their mental health – and now they have devastatingly being proved correct.
The many stories to emerge from this one detention centre, are simply heartbreaking.
Children and teenagers have turned to cutting; slashing their wrists and arms with razor blades. One 17-year-old boy tried to hang himself and when he was caught, insisted that he would try again. Another teenager repeatedly bashed his head against a metal pole – and had to be hospitalised – after his case review to be allowed to remain in Australia, failed.
A nine-year-old boy tried to overdose on his mother’s painkillers.
He wanted to get out. He wanted an escape.
He said later that he was “going crazy” in detention.
And while this case has been listed in official documents as an incident of “self-harm” (because the staff at the detention centre are not medically qualified to make an assessment as to whether they count as attempted suicide) – it is acknowledged that the 9-year-old boy took the tablets knowing what they were going to do to him.
He was aware what the consequences could be. He wanted to die.
These shocking incidents are enough to make you sick to your stomach and yet according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the 26 cases of self-harm between August 2010 and November 2011 is a “significant decrease” on previous years.
26 children self-harming. And that’s supposed to be some kind of improvement.
It’s likely that children in other detention centres around Australia have experienced similarly traumatic circumstances – and may be desperately trying to release their pain in similar ways.