Youth with serious anger problems are a risk to themselves, their whānau and the wider community. In Christchurch, Stopping Violence Services has an Enabling Youth Programme, funded by TEC ACE, to help young people 16 years and over and not in fulltime secondary schooling, develop the emotional and cognitive skills they need to change their lives.

Getting It Together is a 12 week programme providing individual support. It is usually run face-to-face. The course has a strong emphasis on developing learners’ emotional resilience and intelligence, helping them to understand their own self-defeating beliefs and to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately so they can use emotional information to guide their thinking and behaviour.

Brian Washington, the Enabling Youth Services Manager, says that most of these young people have grown up experiencing family harm, so they are victims too, learning to cope with what life has dealt them: “Often their learned behaviour is problematic, as they have experienced dysfunctional, abusive behaviours, from adult/adults in their formative years.”

During the lockdown Morgan Hopcroft who is one of a team of seven at the front-line, was in regular touch with her learners:

“Not many use Zoom, so it is mostly by phone or Facebook Messenger.

“During alert Level 4 most of my learners still wanted to engage which was awesome. At this time there was a lot more stress in their lives. They were having to manage relationships with everyone at home and financial pressures were, and still are, often heightened.

“Basically I was doing a lot of checking-in and finding out how things are, helping them identify early warning signs and triggers, discussing what they can do such as removing themselves, if they can, to another room or an outside space. In Level 4 having a plan was especially important, for example for learners with children–one person will look after the kids, while the other goes out and has a breather.

“We talked about other mental health issues, and positive things they can do if they are feeling low. Sometimes people ran out of medication and we could talk to them about a plan to go and get that organised e.g. make an appointment with their doctor. Some needed help managing alcohol and drug addiction.

“Working at a distance allowed us to provide support and education, which was really important, but I definitely think it is a lot more difficult. Face-to-face sessions usually last about an hour. Some of my clients don’t like their face on screen, and if we are using video calling, they sometimes have the camera pointed at the ceiling. There is some kind of barrier there for some clients. Also I found that we were not talking for so long.”

From Queen’s Birthday weekend, services returned to normal.

Brian Washington says that prior to opening the office to clients, staff spent two weeks organising safety protocols for themselves and their clients – while still working remotely: “There was no pressure for any learners to come back into our offices. Some have social anxiety issues and we know that they find it difficult to leave home even for basic tasks like shopping, so video calling will still be useful for this group – and for people living outside of the city, who have transport issues. For those who find video calling is a bit of an invasion into their personal space – they are now able to come back and continue with their programme face-to-face.”