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Course to help calm angry young men

Richard Pree | ABC Northern Tasmania | 6 April, 2010 5:04PM AEST

Five Launceston high schools are to combine with the youth mental health organisation headspace in a new anger management program designed to keep young males in school and out of the youth justice system. Each of the five schools have been offered two places each in the first "Mind and Body" course starting on April 29th.

"When Headspace began in 2008 many local agencies would refer their clients to us and we found that a lot of referrals were young men who had issues around managing their anger," headspace centre manager Marilyn Murray said.

"They were in trouble with the youth justice system or excluded from their schools because of their behaviour."

Ms Murray said the centre was now able to run two course per year for three years thanks to a $90,000 grant from the Tasmanian Health and Well Being Fund.

"The course centres around identifying the triggers of anger; working out some coping strategies; and finding out how it effects other people," Ms Murray said.

"It's aimed at diverting young men who are on the brink of being involved in the youth justice system or being excluded from school. In this frst program we're looking at those aged between 14 to 16. We'll look at the program and see how we might include other age groups.

"The course runs one day a week for 14 weeks. Every fortnight they'll have a therapeutic session with a psychologist. After that they'll go to a gym - we're hoping to set up a partnership with a local gym - and they'll pace themselves to reach some personal physical goals.

"The second week of every fortnight they'll have an adventure activity. It could be mountain bike riding, bush-walking or caving."

Ms Murray said violence and anger was a "coping mechanism" for some people, albeit a very poor one.

"People who get angry get pay-offs: it reduces their stress, makes them feel as if they're in control, but there are also huge costs that maybe they haven't identified before.

"Recognition of the costs of anger in regard to family, friends and community is the first step. The other is to identify the thinking behind the anger - the way they're choosing to interpret other peoples' behaviour.

"I hope these young men will come out with some skills to manage their feelings so they're not as likely to resort to angry behaviour. I also hope it manages to keep them in school and out of the youth justice system.

"I don't for one moment think this will be a panacea. But we've got the support of the schools and if the young men have other issues such as depression or anxiety the schools and headspace will be able to help them with that.

"We will liaise closely with the schools to make sure they'll get support when they're back in their school.

"The schools do the selection. The principals are really keen - some of them would like all 10 places - and some would like a few places for parents !"

Ms Murray said high profile celebrities and sportsmen with anger issues sent the wrong message to youth.

"What are we saying to young people ? That you can behave that way and it's alright, it's all forgiven, you can behave that way it won't matter ?"

Courtesy of ABC Northern Tasmania

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