An asylum seeker on Nauru who set himself on fire had asked for psychological help before self-immolating, a court was told.
An asylum seeker on Nauru who set himself on fire had asked for psychological help before self-immolating, a court was told.

Tragic refugee’s final plea for help

An asylum seeker on Nauru who set himself on fire had asked for psychological help before self-immolating, a court was told.

The mental health of Omid Masoumali has come under a spotlight in a Brisbane court as an inquest into his 2016 death resumes.

Masoumali had been detained on Nauru for three years when he set himself alight in April 2016.

He died two days later in a Brisbane hospital.

Masoumali had indicated he wanted to see a psychologist prior to his death.

Protestors hold a vigil for Omid Masoumali outside Brisbane Magistrates Court jon Wednesday as an inquest into his death resumed. Picture: Refugee Action Collective Queensland
Protestors hold a vigil for Omid Masoumali outside Brisbane Magistrates Court jon Wednesday as an inquest into his death resumed. Picture: Refugee Action Collective Queensland

Psychologist Catherine Cleary, who worked on the island for the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) at the time, told the court on Wednesday that notes were not kept during triage meetings on the island.

"They weren't taken because an appointment would be made at the first available opportunity, but if there was any concern it would be followed up that day," Ms Cleary told the court.

"It wasn't as though it was a deficit in the process, it was not part of the process."

Ms Cleary said staff would conduct immediate welfare checks if people wrote in their request forms they needed help or were feeling distressed.

Masoumali's family barrister, Shane Prince SC, questioned Ms Cleary on the "high level of psychiatric disturbance" within the Nauru refugee population and whether the baseline level of risk for individuals was high.

She disputed his assessment, saying there were people on the island who were not distressed.

"Where and when there is distress in the refugee population, it is disturbing for everybody," she said.

"However, there were a proportion of people who functioned quite well, some had restaurants, they were able to socialise and have dinners together.

The inquest into Masoumali's death started last year but has resumed after COVID-19 delays.

About 40 supporters of Masoumali protested outside Brisbane Magistrate's Court on Wednesday morning.

The inquest, before state coroner Terry Ryan, continues.

Anyone experiencing difficulty can call Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Originally published as Tragic refugee's final plea for help


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