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SCU project targets anger management in young males


Brigid Veale
6 January 2005
An innovative program targeting anger management among young males is being utilised as part of a Southern Cross University PhD study by Paul Edwards, a clinical nurse specialist in child and adolescent mental health.

Mr Edwards, who works for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Statewide Network (CAMHSNET) and is based at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, said the number of suicides among males aged between 15 and 24 had nearly quadrupled over the last 30 years.

“Our boys are really suffering, particularly in the adolescent years. We are getting more and more acute presentations of mental health issues, including attempted suicide and depression,” Mr Edwards said.

He said the problem had become too big to deal with on a regional level. As a result, NSW Health had established a statewide initiative, run in conjunction with area health services. The project has a major focus on research and is designed to provide support for clinicians.

“There are a lot of social factors involved. With the changes in school curriculum, which now has an increased emphasis on literacy skills, a lot of boys have really struggled to cope in the school environment.

“Over the last 30 years suicides among young males have risen from seven per 100, 000 in the 1960s to 24 per 100,000. Suicide rates among girls have stayed the same.

“Our main focus is young men struggling with anger. Ninety per cent of juvenile offenders are male and we are seeing a dramatic increase in violent crimes.”

Mr Edwards said the increasing mental health problems had consequences across the whole community and in services including health, education, the Department of Community Services and juvenile justice.

As party of his SCU PhD project, he will implement a program which will teach young men the skills needed to manage their emotions, increase their ability to self-reflect and express themselves and improve their self-esteem.

The program, expected to get under way early this year (2005), is based on the Rock and Water program developed in the Netherlands.

“A lot of these young guys need to learn through doing, so we will use a lot of martial arts exercises and principles. We will be getting the boys to learn how to breathe properly, how to recognise tension in their bodies and how to become centred and grounded in various situations. Initially it’s just about keeping them active, and then over the 14 weeks the emphasis will change from action to communication and social skills.

“Many of these boys lack the basic skills of being able to recognise emotions in themselves and others.”

He said while there was strong anecdotal evidence that programs such as these were effective, there had been few systematic trials.

Mr Edwards said the research project would also include focus groups with young men to ensure they had a say on issues impacting their life choices and social development. The project, involving partnerships with community and Government organisations, is also designed to reduce the stigma attached to attending a mental health service.