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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Farmers urged to tell a mate about mental health help

Calls from rural Australians have doubled in the past year to a phone counselling service founded to help tradies, truckies and other blue collar workers.

Ed Ross and Dan Allen bonded over being the new guys on a worksite, tasked with doing the worst jobs in a tradies' rite of passage.

"It was the end of 2014, Brisbane humidity, hot temperatures, sweating it out," Mr Ross recalled of their first job together.

"We became best mates through being lumped together."

The course of the young men's lives changed when one of Mr Allen's friends took his life in 2015, the day before he was due to begin a carpentry apprenticeship.

The friends went on to create TradeMutt, a colourful workwear brand designed to help people talk about mental health on and around job sites.

"It was such a dark, scary thing and all we wanted to do was bring a bit of a light-hearted, fun approach to inviting people to start conversations," Mr Ross said.

The friends then started a phone counselling service for truck drivers, farmers, tradies and other blue collar workers in 2020, identifying a need between raising awareness and crisis support.

The free service, TIACS, has just racked up 18,200 hours of conversations helping more than 17,850 people with a market value of more than $3 million.

Calls from rural Australians have doubled in the last year, as the cost of living rises and drought looms, Mr Ross said.

"The higher the numbers are, the better - that's the best possible outcome,'' he said.

"People are reaching out and getting help when they need it."

TIACS is launching a campaign to raise awareness of their service in rural communities, where access to mental health support can be limited.

They expect to receive more calls from farmers as the hot summer sets in.

"We don't want anyone to ever have to wait more than two weeks for their first session," Mr Ross said.

"We are filling those gaps."

The service has received philanthropic support from the Macdoch Foundation to reach more people across country Australia.

"Conditions are tough, and will only get tougher," the foundation's chief executive Michelle Gortan said.

"TIACS is an organisation that feels approachable and relatable for farmers, so I am pleased that we are able to boost their capacity to support them."

Mr Ross said their ongoing mission is to improve workplace culture in tough industries.

"As soon as someone's vulnerable, other people want to share their story.

"We're the mental health counselling service that you can tell your mates about.

"That's what's going to bring down these barriers."

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beyondblue 1300 22 4636


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