TALKING about mental and emotional well-being can be confronting.
These conversations are often avoided in the workplace, especially in the blue-collar industry.
Tradies Ed Ross and Dan Allen are turning this invisible and debilitating issue into a topic that’s impossible to ignore.
As co-founders, they came up with the concept of TradeMutt in 2016 after losing a mate to suicide the same year.
TradeMutt sells a range of bright, eye-catching workwear that is specifically designed to spark conversation about mental health.
Their powerful slogan, ‘This Is A Conversation Starter’ is imprinted on the back of all of their workwear and has seen hundreds of Australians speak up and share their concerns with others.
“TradeMutt is creating positive change around mental health, breaking down barriers by normalising the topic.”PETER
Mr Ross describes why this dialogue is so important.
“We believe a cultural change is needed to encourage more people to speak up when they need to,” he said.
“Not enough people are having these conversations.”
Kameko made a valued friend through the TradeMutt community when a fellow customer sent him a surprise in the mail while he was feeling really low.
Kameko said about the connection “Ever since TradeMutt started he has treated me like a best mate”.
They have crazy conversations everyday about their day to day lives and Kameko praises him for being such a great example for mental health and checking up on people like himself.
Nicc, who suffers from bipolar and schizophrenia affective disorders talked about how his hi-vis TradeMutt shirt was an absolute uplifter at work, so he ordered more.
“It’s certainly doing its job… nonstop conversation,” Nicc said.
“I’m a fanatical mental health advocate and I wear it with pride.”
Another customer Clare has suffered PTSD and has seen how close people get to the edge, as well as some that don’t quite make it.
The thought and reasoning behind the TradeMutt shirts resonates with her.
“I’m not sure if it’s an Aussie thing to ‘not talk’ about feelings, but we really need to be more aware of each other and open the communication lines to support each other,” Clare said.
“A few bucks on a shirt is a drop in the ocean to help make these things okay to talk about.”
Mr Ross explains that in addition to creating positive change with their workwear, they want to ensure people can gain access to a mental health professional if and when needed.
After seeing just how effective their products were in sparking conversations, they decided to launch TIACS, with sales contributing to funding the service.
TIACS is a free, easy, and direct mental health support service that aims to remove barriers to people receiving professional help.
A text, chat and call back service staffed by mental health clinicians, it provides early intervention support, counselling and education, with no referral needed.
“We can’t just sit back and watch as people muster the courage to ask for help only to be left unheard and abandoned,” Mr Ross said.
Rebecca recalled a time when she was having a really bad day at work and needed someone to talk to.
“My friends were all at work or busy, and I was at a loss,” she said.
Until she glanced at the sleeve of her TradeMutt work shirt, which prompted her to reach out to TIACS.
“Unlike other services where it feels like they’re just trying to get you off the phone, TIACS helped me feel calm and I truly felt supported,” Rebecca said.
“My TradeMutt shirt reminds me I’m not alone and that I can always reach out.”REBECCA
Over 3000 hours of free mental health support has been provided by TradeMutt and TIACS to date.
Additionally, the TIACS Alliance and Foundation has now been formed, which includes the generous support of like-minded companies and community members.
After several years of hard work, Mr Ross and Mr Allen are looking forward to some time off with their families over the 2021 Christmas period, but their passion for changing lives continues.
“We are launching plain work wear in January and ramping up our ability to do custom orders which we’ve seen an amazing response from already,” Mr Ross said.
TradeMutt also plans to branch out and provide workwear for the health industry.
“We want to be able to cater to all work wear needs across most sectors,” Mr Ross said.
“It will help us increase our social impact through the supply chain and of course our contribution to the TIACS Alliance.”.
He said their aim is for TradeMutt to be the number one workwear provider in the country.
If you are concerned about yourself or someone you care about, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or if you are a tradie, truckie, blue-collar worker or someone who cares about them, please contact TIACS on 0488 846 988.
Christie Welsh is currently completing her Bachelor of Social Work at Deakin University. She is a writer and has extensive experience in early childhood education, as well as a family of her own. Christie is passionate about mental health, social justice and human rights, and has a growing interest in social policy and politics. She has a deep respect for peoples’ lived experiences and strives to empower others whenever she can.