Workwear brand TradeMutt helps tradies deal with mental health

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Recent studies revealed that tradies are struggling with their mental health with the suicide rate among young tradies is more than double that of other men.

To address this issue, Daniel Allen and Edward Ross founded TradeMutt in 2015, a social impact workwear brand designed to start conversations about mental health through colourful shirt designs.

“Tradies struggle with mental health because there is a lot of pressure placed on them to work hard for long hours and perform physically demanding jobs often in harsh weather conditions,” Ross said. “Over time, with a continual poor work/life balance, men start to feel burnt out and disconnected from their friends, their families and even themselves.

“On top of this, they are also feeling the pressure of the follow-on effects of Covid-19 and all the issues that are impacting the building and construction industry such as supply chain issues, rising inflation and interest rates, and a labour shortage which is sending wages through the roof,” Ross added. “Things are really tough for tradies at the moment.”

Already, TradeMutt’s shirts have made their way into companies such as BHP, Rio Tinto, the Brisbane City Council and Queensland Rail. The company donate 50 per cent of their profits directly to This Is A Conversation Starter (TIACS), a free and confidential chat, text and callback service providing early-intervention mental health support for truckies, blue-collar workers and those who care about them.

“Blokes have a bit of a reputation for not talking about their problems, but we are changing that,” Ross said. “We are losing so many men due to them not speaking up and getting the support they deserve. The more people that know about TradeMutt and TIACS the better.

“We help on two levels, we get tradies talking to each other by wearing our funky shirts which starts a conversation, and then we include the details for TIACS on every shirt through a QR code so tradies can call for a confidential chat if they need someone to talk to, free and ongoing,” Ross added. “We are saving tradies’ lives, one shirt at a time, and it is working. The feedback has been phenomenal and TIACS is continually reporting higher call rates which is really encouraging.”

According to Keri Stephenson, CEO of TIACS, shared the concern that those who work in trades and construction have some of the highest suicide rates in Australia amongst men.

“Construction workers are at least six times more likely to die by suicide than by a workplace accident. In Australia, every year, we lose 190 construction workers to suicide. We have to do more to support our tradies in Australia,” Stephenson said. “To date, through the support of our partnerships with businesses such as TradeMutt, as a privately funded not-for-profit organisation we have supported over 12,000 clients, translating to over 10,000 hours of counselling and an incredible $2.15 million worth of market services delivered to the Australian Blue collar community free of charge.”

As part of the efforts for mental health, the founders conceptualised the idea of ‘Funky Shirt Friday’ to give tradies a reason to wear their TradeMutt shirts to work, similar to what office workers do on casual work Fridays.

“Funky Shirt Fridays is a ritual that happens every week, no matter what. Just like casual Fridays at the office, we encourage tradies to wear a TradeMutt shirt on Fridays, and every other day if they want,” Ross said. “It’s a great way to turn the best day of the work week into the one day of the week where tradies can take ownership of their mental health and encourage meaningful conversations with those around them. Initiatives like Funky Shirt Fridays were put in place to help men break the ice and just walk up to a workmate and use these crazy design shirts as an icebreaker to get a conversation going about any problems or pressure they might be feeling at work or at home.

“So, just by wearing a TradeMutt shirt on Funky Shirt Friday and inviting a conversation to start, you could be helping to save a life,” Ross concluded.

The story was originally published on Inside Small Business.

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