Bold shirts herald a mental health support program for tradies.

Mental health is often a way down the safety checklist for tradies. While most work sites do regular checks for proper PPE, it can be much harder to get mental health issues addressed in the workplace. Which is a shame, because issues like depression and anxiety are extremely common across every industry sector even in the best of times – which this year generally isn’t.

This Is A Conversation Starter (TIACS) grew out of TradeMutt, the social enterprise workwear company founded by Dan Allen and Ed Ross. Their bold and bright shirts carry the This Is A Conversation Starter Message on their backs and a portion of the profits from each shirt sale goes towards funding TIACS, which offers practical help for tradies struggling with their mental health.

Allen and Ross were inspired to act when a friend told them his story of reaching out to a stranger in the comments below a prominent mental health charity’s Facebook post. The young man had clearly been in distress and yet no one from that charity contacted him.

Through a generous donation from Bretts Timber and Hardware in Coorparoo, Queensland, their mate Russ was able to put the young man in touch with a mental health professional and make sure he got the support he needed.

The story resonated deeply with Allen. “In 2016, I lost a close friend to suicide,” he says. “He was also named Dan and he had an infectious personality and was like a brother to me when I moved to Brisbane.”

Blindsided by the loss of his friend, and the deep impact he saw it have on his friend’s family, Allen wanted to help both end the stigma around seeking help and make it easier to do so. “Our loud and vibrant shirts act as a catalyst to starting the conversation around mental health in men,” he says. “The courage us blokes pride ourselves on is the very thing required to address this silent killer.”

Allen and Ross are determined to do more than raise awareness. “TIACS Foundation facilitates access to mental health professionals, by removing the physical and financial barriers to help,” says Ross. “We provide early intervention and mental health education, helping individuals to understand their own mental health and equipping them with the tools to practice mental wellness and be the best versions of themselves. We also make access to psychological therapy services as simple as pushing a button.”

Marc Ahmelman, CEO, TIACS Foundation, says, “There are many blue-collar workers who don’t have the time, means or ability to access psychological services. TIACS handles calls from truckies who are working up to 80 hours a week. They can call us if they need to talk through issues.

“If you need support, we’re a phone call or a text away – 0488 846 988 (9.30am to 5pm weekdays) – and will put you in touch with a mental health professional without charge. The support line is manned by professional volunteers. It’s early days and we’re building capacity to extend the hours we’re available. Quick chat or text – great; longer chat – cool; need a follow up? – no problem. We’re here for as long as you need support.”

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