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Anger

Feeling angry isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes young people use anger to cover other feelings of distress, and can let it out in ways that can cause harm to themselves and others.

Anger is a normal emotion - it affects everyone at times. Often anger covers up other emotions such as stress, embarrassment, fear, hurt, or helplessness. We usually feel angry when things don’t go the way we expect or want them to.

Feeling angry is not a bad thing - it’s how we express anger that matters. Sometimes people bottle up their anger and don’t let it out. This can make them feel sad and can really hurt them if they don’t deal with it. Other times anger can overwhelm a person - they get so caught up in emotion that they do or say things they later regret.

It is never okay for someone to be violent or hurt someone else just because they are angry. There are other ways to express anger that don't hurt anybody.

Keeping an eye out

If young people haven't learned how to control their anger, it might become harmful or dangerous.
You might notice:

  • They are irritable, they seem to get angry all the time, or anger is their main response to most situations
  • When they are angry they are aggressive, say mean things, or hit things
  • Reports of bullying, violence, or vandalism from schools or community groups
  • They seem depressed or they’re not hanging out with friends or family
  • Scars or marks, they might be self harming
  • They use drugs or alcohol

Healthy conversations

Often anger is the result of many other feelings, such as hurt, frustration, disappointment or fear. Helping someone start to talk about their anger will help them understand it, and deal with it better.

  • If someone’s anger is being directed at you, it won't help the situation to yell back. Ease the situation by speaking in a calm but firm voice. You could try saying: “I can see you’re really angry. How about we talk about this later, when both of us have cooled down a bit?”
  • Make a quiet time to talk, when neither of you are angry or upset
  • Use "I statements" to explain how their anger affects you. For example, “When you get angry and you raise your voice, I feel ____”
  • Let them know it’s okay to feel angry sometimes, but the way they express it will affect other people
  • Talk about different ways they could handle a situation that makes them angry. Could they walk away for a while, listen to some music, or talk to a friend?
  • They might not want to talk. But making yourself available, or letting them know that there are other people to talk to, will make it clear there is support when they need it

Taking action

If someone’s anger is starting to hurt you, you don’t have to put up with it. Try to talk with them about it and support them to find a way to deal with it.

  • Make sure you are safe. If they do or say hurtful things when they are angry, tell them you will talk later and walk away from the situation
  • Try to find things you could do together that will help them express their emotions without directing their anger at you or anyone else. You could suggest going for a run, or doing some intense exercise
  • Do fun things together. Get their mind off focusing on the things that make them angry
  • If their anger is hurting them or anyone else, support them to get some help. You could suggest going with them to book an appointment with a doctor or counsellor

Resources

Youthline

Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations including how to deal with anger.

NZ Violence Prevention

NZ Violence Prevention is committed to preventing violence in New Zealand's future and assisting others to stop violence in the present. It engages in community education and training that will help the public reduce conflict and live more peacefully.

Guidelines for Supporting Young People with Stress, Anxiety and/or Depression

Developed under the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, this online resource aims to help anyone who a young person confides in about supporting their wellbeing, including support for mild to moderate mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and mild depression.

The Guidelines are designed to support people ‘walking alongside’ a young person to help them access mental health advice and support.

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