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When it comes to organisations doing good things for our youth, the Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) and its GRIT program is one that’s well worth supporting.

One in four young people aged between 16-24 experience a mental illness, and 75% of mental health problems first appear before the age of 25. Research also shows that youth have experienced higher rates of psychological distress, job loss and disruption to their education than older Australians as a result of Covid.

Giving teens a little grit

Being at the coalface of troubled and disadvantaged teens is nothing new for the PCYC. Its mission as an organisation has always been to empower young people to reach their potential, but also to feel safe and have the chance to connect with others as well.

“Covid brought a sense of isolation to many, and we’re starting to see an emergence of a lot of early signs of mental health in young people,” said Dominic Teakle, CEO, PCYC NSW.

Funded by a $125,000 grant from the Charitable Foundation, PCYC launched the Growth-mindset Resilience Intervention for Teenagers (GRIT) program to help support teens across the Newcastle and Hunter region.

“The GRIT program integrates specific mental resilience skills training, with nutrition education, and physical fitness,” Dominic explained.

“We also want to give them the tools to identify early signs of anxiety or depression so they have the ability to potentially rebound from those issues. By adding a mental wellness program into PCYCs across NSW, we will be able to help young people build resilience and grit, and an optimistic approach to daily life.

Sergeant David Blom from NSW Police Force also agreed a mental health program was much needed. 

When I went to school, if you got bullied you’d go home and that was the end of it – but for kids these days, it’s 24/7. I think that’s definitely played a part in issues around youth mental health and PCYC’S GRIT program will hopefully go a long way towards helping those who need it, Sergeant Blom said.

Out of the box solutions

For PCYC boxing coach Izayah Akroyd, fitness is a huge part of creating and boosting mental health – not just for young people but adults who might feel isolated too.

“Fitness releases endorphins and with boxing you can let off a bit of steam, learn how to defend yourself,” Izayah said.

“We’re trying to point kids who might be from disadvantaged backgrounds in the right direction; they can come and do something for themselves, so they can create a positive, healthy lifestyle and future.

"He also adds that offering programs like boxing keeps kids out of trouble.

“We get to see the progression they make physically and mentally. Seeing the confidence they get from doing it, and overcoming their own barriers and adversity is really rewarding,” Izayah said.

Invaluable support

Of course, the PCYC and any programs it creates can’t go ahead without support from the community and its benefactors. Dominic says he’s incredibly humbled and privileged by the almost $1 million in funding the PCYC has received from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation over the past 17 years.

“We just couldn’t have achieved all that we have, especially in regional areas, without that support,” Dominic said.

The funding has helped the PCYC in countless ways, from putting a floor into a community hall that would otherwise have closed, to refurbishing the kitchen at the Lake Macquarie facility.

“The Charitable Foundation’s support really gives the GRIT program a chance to reach more young people across our regions and support the mental health and resilience of young people in our communities. We can’t do it all, but with help we can do as much as we can,” Dominic said.


Police citizen youth clubs NSW is a not-for-profit organisation delivering a broad range of youth and community activities and support. We focus on empowering young people to be the best that they can be through personal development programs in partnership with NSW Police Youth and Crime Prevention Command. Offering over 15 Youth development programs and over 100 sport, educational, vocational, creative and recreational activities, our clubs are welcoming and accessible reflecting the community they serve by offering classes and programs to suite all ages and lifestyles.

Founded in 1937, and with more than 63 clubs and centres across the state, PCYC NSW is one of Australia’s leading youth organisations.