Relax …Head Massage And Reiki Help Boys Stay Out Of tTouble

Cookery lessons and golf also found to work at projects in deprived areas  
They may not be the most traditional of crime prevention techniques, but Indian head massage, golf and cookery lessons are being used to help teenage boys in poor areas “de-stress” and stay away from the temptations of drink, drugs and offending.

A national programme of activities for youngsters in the most deprived parts of England has seen boys queueing to try natural relaxation techniques, and reporting feeling calmer, more focused and less angry as a result. The aim is to offer youngsters alternative healthy activities besides traditional options such as football.

One project experimenting with the therapies in Halton, near Liverpool, found teenagers moved from bemusement to enthusiasm, and asked for more opportunities to try massage and reiki – a Japanese healing technique based on the idea that energy from a therapist can activate the body’s ability to heal itself and banish stress.

The youngsters’ parents were equally welcoming as the techniques, which also included detoxing foot spas, left the teenagers calmer and ready for bed at 10pm. The therapies have been tested as part of the Positive Futures programme, a £5m Home Office-funded scheme with more than 120 projects in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England.

The five-year programme has focused on using sports and activities such as drama to divert 10- to 19-year-olds at risk of getting into trouble, but has recently branched out in some areas to include activities designed to help young people “de-stress and unwind”, as well as alternative programmes such as cookery, fishing and golf.

Project organisers say the schemes are successfully helping teenagers, many of whom have been in trouble for antisocial behaviour or may be involved with drink or drugs, to stay out of trouble and work to improve their health, including eating better.

David Humphreys, a manager overseeing the Halton project, said boys had taken to a range of therapies, including electro-stimulation, a kind of electrical acupuncture said to boost the immune system and act as a natural antidepressant. An initial taster session attracted 50 teenagers including 38 boys, all of whom tried the therapies.

Mr Humphreys said: “These young people don’t know they have pockets of stress in their bodies but they certainly know when they have had a head massage or reiki that something is a lot different. They said they felt freer and a lot more awake and more focused, and since then they have come back for more.” The transformation had been remarkable, he added. “We never thought it would make such a difference in terms of their mood … Their parents love it because they are going home and crashing at 10 o’clock because their bodies are detoxed.”

Mark, 14, said trying the therapies had been very calming. During half an hour of reiki, he said, “they massage you and do lots of mad stuff over your head. Afterwards you feel really drowsy and relaxed”. He plans to go back for more, as well as trying other activities run by the project, including fishing and golf.

Another Positive Futures project in Blackburn has run 10-week cookery and healthy eating courses over the past year aimed specifically at boys at risk of getting into trouble. The scheme’s manager, Gordon Peake, said the scheme had seen participants aged 15 to 17 arrested less often and for less serious offences. The scheme taught teenagers basic cooking skills, as well as advice on health and encouragement to sit down and eat together, something they rarely did at home.

Many of the boys had become very enthusiastic, Mr Peake said. “It is really funny to see 17-year-old, rufty-tufty lads icing fairy cakes. They take so much care it isn’t true.They take them home to show their mums and you get these great big yobboes saying, ‘Watch my hundreds and thousands’.”

Positive Futures director Gary Stannett said: “We recognise that not all young people enjoy sport and we strive to offer a diverse range of activities to suit everyone. We are delighted to see that boys are comfortable expressing an interest in activities which are traditionally female-oriented.”