This article is concerned with the employment of pathologising discourses of mental health and trauma by the mainstream media as they pertain to the treatment of migrants in detention in Canada. Using critical discourse analysis, this research contrasts mainstream media coverage of four major publications on immigration detention. It explores the media’s role in the (re)creation of refugee discourse, and as a purveyor of racial ideology, which problematises people of colour and demands state intervention in the form of mental health aid. The resulting discourse pathologises the refugee identity and simultaneously obscures the socio-political conditions and violence that necessitates their departure from their home countries. As refugee discourse is infused with biomedical understandings of mental health, it also legitimises the nation state’s practice of coercive social control for these populations through detention.