A 20-year-old man detained on Nauru has told of how his mother attempted suicide on Saturday after being separated from her daughter several weeks ago.
Omid, a 20-year-old Iranian refugee, told BuzzFeed News his mother's mental health had deteriorated sharply since his 23-year-old sister, Nazanin, was sent to a hospital in Brisbane in August.
After being raped on Nauru in May, Nazanin was airlifted to Australia in August after suffering from kidney failure.
Omid and his mother had been told the authorities had to send Nazanin to Brisbane "as soon as we can" but promised they would be able to follow the next day. This didn't happen.
"They sent her, the day after that they said no," Omid said, adding that psychologists had recommended the family stay together to aid Nazanin's recovery from the physical and mental trauma.
"The pressure started from that time, my mother started to cry 24/7," said Omid. As Omid's mother's mental health plummeted, so did her physical health – she was diagnosed with diabetes and a stomach complaint.
"Now she is getting completely hopeless and tired," Omid said.
Since Nazanin was taken to Brisbane, the family has only been able to communicate via infrequent minutes-long phone calls.
On Saturday night, Omid says he entered the tent to find his mother attempting to hang herself.
"She tried to hang herself with a rope but I came into the tent and saw that she was preparing that," Omid said. "I called the officers."
Omid and his mother have now been moved to a different part of the camp near the International Health and Medical Services building, where his mother is constantly under the watch of two guards to ensure she does not hurt herself.
A spokesperson for the department of immigration and border protection told BuzzFeed News there had been "no such reports" of a suicide attempt on Nauru.
"The Department takes the health and welfare of transferees at Nauru Regional Processing Centre very seriously," the spokesperson added.
However, psychiatrist and trauma specialist Helen Driscoll, who works with the group Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites, hit out at conditions in the centre.
"The conditions on Nauru are punitive, dangerous and destructive of the refugees' very will to live," she said.
Driscoll, who is familiar with the family, also said that isolating the family from one another will only hinder their recovery.
"The fact that Nazanin and each family member is utterly crushed and the only option to ease intolerable suffering is suicide from total despair is entirely predictable," she said.
On Sunday, the Nauruan government announced it would process 600 asylum seeker applications this week and that the immigration detention centre would implement an "open" policy, allowing detainees to move about the island freely.
Omid told BuzzFeed News he and his mother are at a point where "we can't feel anymore".
"I really don't know how I am passing my time," he said, adding that looking after his mother and trying to send a voice outside are two things that keep him going.
"I'm just using really strong medication day and night, getting numb and don't understand how time is passing. My mother has the same situation. Now is a time when we can't feel anymore."
Omid said it is unspeakably hard to see the mental trauma his mother is experiencing.
"I have been confused and shocked and I don't know how I should react...I am 24/7 laying on the bed, hearing my mother screaming, my mother crying, her reactions," he said.
"All these days I have all these pressures. I am getting really tired and I can't continue anymore."
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection did not respond in detail to questions from BuzzFeed News.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit Lifeline.org.au.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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