Interview 4: Dr Jill Devlin

JD

Hi, my name is Jill, I’m a psychiatry doctor and I’d like to share the story of a patient of mine who I will call Siddeek. Details of this story have been altered for the sake of privacy.

 

Siddeek is a 45 year old man who immigrated to Australia five years ago after fleeing persecution in the Middle East, this is the story that he told me. Siddeek is from a minority group and the village where he grew up was violently attacked and he lost a lot of family members and he spent months travelling across the Middle East to find safety in Istanbul. He then decided that he would travel to Australia to restart his life where he had extended family and hoped to start a new life. On arrival to Australia he was sent to a detention centre and during the four years staying in there he didn’t know how long he would be there for. He would ask for information and didn’t receive any. He was involved in food preparation as a way of coping and connecting with his peers. But during his time in the detention centre he described relentless bullying from security guards.  This [involved] daily verbal name calling as well as physical abuse, though the persistent derogatory words were, for him, the most intolerable. He became very frightened and struggled with his sleep. He started hearing voices of the guards in his mind at night. He attempted suicide. He felt himself swelling with rage and fear and felt he had no control over his destiny – that he was trapped in jail. Worse than jail he said “In jail you know why you’re there and when you’re getting out. You have some rights and know when you’re getting out. I had none of that”.

Siddeek was discharged from the detention centre 12 months before I met him, he was referred by his GP to the tertiary centre because of persistent nightmares and voices. Siddeek was a savvy business man with motivation to contribute to the economy but he seems to have lost his way.  He didn’t seem to have a psychotic illness, rather he had severe post-traumatic stress disorder. “Doctor I never had these symptoms before, back in the Middle East. Even my travel through the war areas was not as bad compared to this. I don’t know what to do. I’m broken now and I wasn’t before,” he said. My opinion as a doctor was that he had post-traumatic stress disorder with symptoms and features of the exposure to violence in the form of bullying with recurrent intrusive memories, dreams, distress, inability to experience positive emotions, irritability, hypervigilance, increased startle response, sleep disturbance and concentration difficulties. His long term plan was to involve medication and trauma therapy with regular psychological care.

Siddeek’s story affected me personally, I felt very sad that Siddeek had sought refuge and received what he described as torture, torture worse than what he had been fleeing. I felt sad that he had felt broken and that it would take a lot of time and resources to help him recover emotionally. I am thankful for our committed public health service to the needs of suffering members of our community including refugees.