When we think about the uniform of a typical Australian tradie, hi-vis shirts and ragged shorts come to mind. But now, two Brisbane chippies are not only changing this perception, they’re also raising awareness around mental health in the process.
Good mates, Daniel Allen and Ed Ross have started a social enterprise they have named Trademutt which has seen them design a series of colourful work shirts that draw attention to those who support and back the importance of the mental health of the Aussie tradesmen.
“I met Dan on a job site and we became good friends,” says Ed. “I had been working on a remote property up in far northern Queensland and saw the effects that the drought and the remoteness played with the communities out there, so Dan and I got talking and we realised there was work to be done to help talk about the issue of suicide and poor mental health, in both the building and farming industries.”
Backing Dan’s findings, statistics show suicide rates among Australian tradies are twice as high compared to any other male profession. Construction workers are also six to seven times more likely to die by suicide than workplace accidents.
“I saw so many men in the building and construction industry who I worked with that were not talking about their feelings and keeping things bottled up,” adds Dan. “I felt if I can help educate and support fellow mates, then I can also make a difference and help reduce suicide in our Australian male population.”
From the get go, both Ed and Dan’s intention was to do something different to anything else that was already out there.
“We started with basic designs like spots and stripes but it was all too boring,” explains Ed. “As we worked with our designer, we kept encouraging him to go wilder and wilder, until he came back with a wild camo design, which we knew straight away was the one.”
Acting as further inspiration for the project, Dan also lost a close friend to suicide and saw first-hand the devastation and damage it caused to friends and family.
“No one saw it coming and so I wanted to do something to raise awareness about why preventative actions matter and can make a difference.”
Each right pocket of the shirts feature the letters YNWA, which stands for “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and is a tribute to Dan’s friend — a reminder for anyone wearing one of the shirts that there’s always someone willing to help.
Together, Dan and Ed both agree that having conversations about this topic needs to be ‘normalised’ in the workplace and elsewhere.
“There is a responsibility on all of us who feel mentally well, to create an environment that is comfortable and safe for those who are struggling,” says Dan. “We need to make them feel like they can open up, without fear of being judged. It’s particularly important for construction workers to have these conversations, being such a male-dominated industry.”
When asked what improvements they think the construction industry could make, in order to become more preventative, the pair both stressed that education is key.
“Educating everyone around the practice of mental wellness is the best way,” says Dan. “Equipping men with the tools and resources to understand mental health will empower them to have these important conversations and create an environment where it’s the norm to be aware of, and discuss this topic. This will no doubt enable anyone who is struggling to put their hand up for help when help is needed most.”
Five percent of all profits from TradeMutt’s sales goes towards the ‘This is a Conversation Starter Movement’, run by not-for-profit organisation Spur.
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*Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.