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Police Need Training to Deal With Angry Youths - Child Psychologist

Published:Tuesday | September 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Child psychologist Gemma Gibbon has argued that police personnel do not have adequate training to deal with angry youth.

"I do not believe the police in Jamaica have had good enough conflict-resolution training or truly understand the complexities of an already angry youth who is in therapy for anger issues. Most police exert their authority in an angry, offensive manner before really assessing the situation and will generally make wrong assumptions," she said in an email response to The Gleaner's questions yesterday.

Gibbon was commenting on news of a 17-year-old who was taken into custody for stabbing a police inspector on Monday.

Reports indicate that the teenager was receiving counselling for anger problems. His family also feared that he was possessed by demons, claiming that he started displaying disruptive behaviour after watching a horror movie.




"Aggression and anger are a communication of emotional pain, unresolved negative feelings and, many times, clinical depression," Gibbon said.

She went on to point out that the environment in which young people are reared can contribute to the anger issues they face.

"Stressful, volatile, sleep-deprived and nutritious food-deprived, financially struggling people fall into either of two categories: withdrawn and hopeless, or aggressive and angry. These youths go through most of their daily lives in survival mode, which means

that their brains have been conditioned to react to the huge flood of fight or flight hormones when faced with a confrontational situation or even the smallest conflict.

"These hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, require quick physical reactions and completely bypass the pathway in the brain that is required for critical thinking, evaluating the situation and consequences of our actions," she said.

Gibbon argued that there was an overwhelming problem of environmental issues that prevented emotional maturity in depraved youth and which created emotional reactiveness. These youth were often without the support and the close relationship of positive male role models. At-risk youth grow up in a society that supports a wide range of emotions for girls but few for boys, she said.