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Monday, 11 August 2003
Page: 13112


Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 9 May 2003:

With reference to the answer to question on notice no.1139 (Senate Hansard, 24 March 2003, p.10056):

(1) What is the definition of the word “depression” as used in the answer.

(2) What percentage of detainees have suffered, or are suffering, from depression.

(3) What percentage of detainees are receiving medication for depression.

(4) How many detainees have been diagnosed with depression or a similar condition in the past 5 years.

(5) (a) How many detainees have received medication for such an illness in the past 5 years; and (b) how many of these detainees were: (i) children, (ii) men, and (iii) women.

(6) How many detainees have received other forms of treatment for such an illness in the past 5 years; and (b) how many of these detainees were: (i) children, (ii) men, and (iii) women.


Senator Ellison (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The word “depression” as used in the answer to the honourable senator's previous question upon notice of 24 January 2003 was a reference to reactive depression, that is, unhappiness or sadness experienced at a time of loss or disappointment. The statistics provided on 24 March 2003 on the number of detainees on medication for a diagnosed psychiatric mental illness (ie 2.9% of detainees at the end of January 2003) did not include detainees suffering from reactive depression but did include the number of detainees on medication for a diagnosed psychiatric mental illness including clinical depression.

The National Action Plan for Depression developed under the National Mental Health Plan 1998-2003, distinguishes between types of depressive disorders in the following way. “Unhappiness or sadness at a time of loss or disappointment is not the same as experiencing clinical depression. The term clinical depression describes not just one illness but a group of illnesses characterised by excessive and long term lowering in mood along with a range of other symptoms that affect the person's lifestyle and ability to manage life.”

(2), (4), and (6) The very detailed information sought in the honourable senator's questions is not readily available in a consolidated form. The Department and the Detention Services Provider do not keep consolidated statistics on different categories of medical conditions suffered by detainees. It would be a major task to collect and assemble them. The practice of successive governments has been not to authorise the expenditure of time and money involved in assembling such information on a general basis.

(3) As clarified above, the Department has confirmed that at the end of January 2003 an average of 2.9% of detainees were on medication for a diagnosed psychiatric mental illness, including clinical depression, but not including reactive depression.

(5) The Detention Services Provider keeps records on the use of medication enabling a manual count of persons on a particular type of medication to be extracted at a point in time. However, it does not keep them in a way that allows historical data to be easily extracted and collated. It would be a major task to collect and assemble it. The practice of successive governments has been not to authorise the expenditure of time and money involved in assembling such information on a general basis.