TradeMutt – how standing out can start a life-saving conversation
Suicide rates among construction workers are higher than in any other group in Australia. According to Mates in Construction (MIC), every year 190 Australians working in this industry take their own lives.
But TradeMutt is working hard to change these statistics. If you have recently noticed construction workers in colourful, vibrant shirts with a sign “This Is a Conversation Starter”, then you have come across TradeMutt workwear.
Question: How did two Australian tradies decide to set up a social enterprise that tackles men’s mental health?
During many long days on the tools working in the hot Queensland sun, Dan and I would often ponder weird and wonderful business ideas.
One day we spoke about the lack of variety and choices the working class had for workwear, its all the same colour! While we were investigating that idea, Dan lost a close mate to suicide that changed everything. It was our first encounter with suicide and really shun a light on the fact that there is just such a large misunderstanding about mental health in the country, especially among blokes.
We were then introduced to the world of social enterprise and a profit for purpose business model, it fit with our values and we believed we could make a real difference in the mental health space so we went all in and launched TradeMutt.
Question: Why do you think suicide rates are so high in the construction industry?
We believe the suicide rates are so high among the construction industry due to a variety of contributing factors but mainly due to the male-dominated culture and relationship problems and finances.
Question: Why did you decide to make your own workwear and how did you come up with the name TradeMutt?
Firstly, it was about us being able to wear something different to work, however when Dan lost his mate we saw it as a huge opportunity to create change in the mental health space and start a lot of meaningful conversations that weren’t originally being started.
As for the name, we already had the logo from my godfather so we had to find a domain that was available 😛
Why is your workwear so vibrant and bold?
In short, to stand out and start conversations. Our products are designed to create conversations about mental health every time they are worn.
Why did you decide to start your own charity TIACS (This is a Conversation Starter)?
Through our journey, we have discovered that people are normally battling worst with their mental health when they have troubles with finance and or relationships.
When people find themselves in these positions they are rarely investing in their mental wellbeing, so we decided to remove the physical and financial barriers that existed to accessing private sector mental health care.
Is having a massive following on Instagram and Facebook helping you to increase the awareness of mental health among Australian construction workers?
100%. We have been able to not just start conversations about mental health but also start out our own podcast and also our own online paper that provides stories, education and information about mental health.
We are seeing some big engineering companies such as Fulton Hogan, Seymour Whyte and AECOM getting on board with TradeMutt’s mission. How did these partnerships come about?
All organically. We are just honoured that companies like these have backed a start-up Aussie social enterprise and helped us make a larger impact.
These businesses are really setting an amazing example for all other trade-related business owners.
Your shirts have made it to some very unusual places like the Pogo gold mine in Alaska and the Casey Station in Antarctica. How does that feel?
It is just so crazy to think we have been able to get our shirts and conversations started in areas as remote as Alaska and Antarctica. We are humbled, to be honest, nothing we ever dreamed of and is truly amazing to see.
Has running TradeMutt given you an opportunity to learn more about and improve your own mental wellbeing?
Oh, TradeMutt has been the best thing that has ever happened for my mental health. There is no doubt.
I have learnt so much more about myself and how I operate. I have recently engaged a nutritionist to learn more about food and the impact it has on your overall health; I work out every day for at least 30mins and often mediate or practice yoga.
And finally, many people don’t really know how to start a conversation about mental health. What are your tips?
Here at TradeMutt, our whole approach around the mental health space is to take a bit more of a fun and light-hearted approach to talking about it.
As we know, guys particularly don’t really like talking about serious stuff too much, but that’s ok.
If we can use some awesome shirts to help make starting the conversation a little easier, we seriously believe that we can change the whole culture surrounding this topic.
After all, while mental health is a serious topic, we want people to understand that we all have mental health, just like we have physical health.
Every minute of every day we are somewhere on the spectrum of mental health, from the lower end including things like depression and anxiety to the other end including things like fun, happiness and love.
So how do we have the conversation? Here are a few things to remember….
You’re not there to fix the problem – so don’t try to.
You are not a mental health professional, but you are a person who can show empathy and compassion and take a non-judgemental approach. Just listening and allowing someone to vent is extremely effective.
Just remember, don’t let someone else’s problem become your problem too or you won’t be any good to anyone.
- Plan a time and place – don’t just shirt front someone with a serious topic. If it is a work colleague that you are worried about, then it’s probably not a great idea to try to have the chat at work. It’s just not a comfortable setting. Go for a walk, a coffee, a beer, whatever. Just consider your environment first to ensure it is nice and chill.
- Keep it casual - don’t be weird about it, just be cool. Just because you are ready to talk, it doesn’t mean the other person is. Keep the conversation relaxed and talk about anything you normally would. You need to create a comfortable and safe environment to allow the other person to open up naturally. Talking about some of your own problems is a great way to help this happen.
- Be Frank – Once the conversation opens up and gets a little deeper, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the other person “have you considered suicide”? Although this can be an extremely difficult question to ask, you are likely to prompt a genuine answer, allowing you to gauge just how bad someone’s situation might be.
- Choose open-ended questions - Asking things like “How is work going?”, “How are things at home?”, “How are you feeling?” will allow the conversation to roll on and open an insightful conversation about specific parts of someone’s life.
- Get Back-up – If you’re talking to someone about some really tough stuff, always remember there is back up out there. Ask the person if they think it’s a good idea to get someone else involved who knows what to do – a professional – and arrange a time to connect them to someone who can help.
To find out more about TradeMutt or to buy a shirt, head to the TradeMutt website: https://trademutt.com/
To access TIACS visit https://www.tiacs.org
TIACS – 0488 846 988 – One-off and/or short term voice and text mental health support service
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The male-dominated construction industry in Australia and New Zealand has high rates of mental health issues and suicide.