Handling anxiety, cycle of violence

New research has shown the limited effectiveness of anger management approaches to tackling aggression in the long term. Specifically, in populations of domestic violence perpetrators, anger management interventions have been found to be ineffective. 

This is one of the messages brought to Samoa by Ali'imuamua Tua Agaiava, a Samoan living in Tasmania where he works as Manager of Primary Health Social Work and the Mental Health team and is Deputy Coordinator for Social Recovery at the Tasmanian Health Service.

“Anger and aggression,” he explains, “are behavioural manifestations of underlying issues that are important to explore including anxiety, early trauma and our own experiences of aggression and violence.” 

It is now well understood that addressing aggression generally requires an understanding of anxiety and a combination of approaches including mindfulness training.  

These and other issues were explored in a half-day seminar held at Moto‘otua yesterday. Supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and Soroptimists International of Samoa, the seminar was organized by the Tiapapata Art Centre In. as a part of its work in a long-term project exploring issues of intimate partner violence in Samoan families and the linkages of gender-based violence to gender inequality. 

“I am grateful to National Health Services for allowing this seminar to be held in their facilities,” said project coordinator Galumalemana Steven Percival of the Art Centre. 

“It is also heartening to realize there are well educated Samoans working in this field including Mr. Agaiava who holds an Honours Degree in Social Work, a Masters degree in Forensic Mental Health and Criminology, and is currently doing a postgraduate degree in Public Policy and Governance.”  

The seminar was opened by Leiataua Dr. Ben Matalavea who challenged the participants to recognize that violence is a problem in our families and society and that we have to individually and collectively address the issues to break the cycle of violence too many of us are all too familiar with. 

The seminar was attended by around seventy people who came out of personal interest and as representatives of various organisations including the Ministry of Police, National Health Services, Goshen Mental Health Trust, UN Women, UNFPA, and the New Zealand High Commission, among others. 

A group of 30 nurses from the Faculty of Nursing also attended the event as a part of their orientation program. Many of the participants stated they were keen to learn new methodologies that may reduce or prevent violence. 

Rhonda Macdonald, President of Soroptimists International of Samoa, reminded participants that violence against women and girls is a global issue and that no country is unaffected by the impacts of violence on lives and development. 

“The Soroptimists are interested in exploring what avenues they may be able to provide support for to address the issue,” she stated. 

An official who works for the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, referred participants to the fact the there is currently a teacher in prison for the violent treatment of a student under the guise of disciplinary action. 

While many people in the seminar have experienced violence at home and at school, the use of force is no longer acceptable in society with current legislation increasingly being enforced. 

Many young people were present at the seminar and for Tahere Leota who has just returned from completing a Masters Degree in Social Work, and stressed the valuable contribution social work can make to address anxiety and violence. 

Tuifagatoa Dr. George Leao Tuitama, Psychiatric Registrar of the Mental Health Unit, co-facilitated the seminar and was able to provide participants with clinical aspects relating to anxiety.
The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives project includes a series of community workshops where the strengths of Samoan culture to reduce or end violence, such as the vātapuia and its many derivations, will be discussed along with what villagers think may be causing this problem. 

The first community dialogue on the issue will be held at the end of the week at Si‘ufaga, Savai’i.

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