Our Mental Health Mission For Farmers And Tradies

The 'Don't Keep It Under Your Hat' campaign aims to support mental health
A new campaign from specialist mental health support charity This Is A Conversation Starter (TIACS) is urging Aussie farmers to not be shy about seeking mental health support.

Farmers and rural communities across Australia have endured fires, droughts, floods, volatile market conditions in recent years and it can all take a toll on mental health.

The TIACS ‘Don’t Keep It Under Your Hat’ campaign, supported by the Macdoch Foundation, aims to start conversations and remind people that professional support is available and just a text message away.

TIACS is a not-for-profit organisation which offers free phone and text counselling services for Australia’s blue-collar and rural and regional communities.

Co-CEO of TIACS Jason Banks said, ‘Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to express what’s on our mind, especially for farmers who pride themselves on overcoming tough times, and it can be even harder to ask for support which is why with TIACS support can start with a simple text.

‘After initial contact with TIACS one of our experienced and fully qualified counsellors will guide 
conversations either via text or on the phone to offer support and help lighten the load.’

This A Conversation Starter co-founder Dan Allen, 33, from Brisbane, Qld, told that’s life! how the organisation came to be and why its work is so important

‘I can’t believe it,’ I said to my workmate, Ed, then 21, stunned.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he replied.

It was December 2015 and I’d just learned my mate Dan, 27, had died by suicide.

Devastated, I’d no idea Dan, who had such an infectious personality, was doing it so tough. I’d only spoken to him on Saturday.

As I set about finishing my shift as a carpenter, Ed did his best to listen and cheer me up.

But both of us knew suicide was no laughing matter – it was bloody awful.

Watching the broken faces of Dan’s family at his funeral later that week was horrific.

Still in disbelief, I experienced a gamut of emotions.

Could I have prevented him from this? I tortured myself, replaying chats we’d had in my mind, searching for answers.

Was there a sign I’d missed? Or something different I could have said?

The new campaign to help tackle mental health issues in rural communities (Credit: TIACS)
Trade Mutts founders
Dan and Ed (Credit: TIACS/Trade Mutts)

I spent hours talking about it to family, friends, and of course, Ed.

I realised that most blokes we knew were like Dan – hiding their feelings and suffering in silence, instead of sharing their battles.

‘It has to stop. I wish there was something we could do,’ I sighed to Ed.

‘Maybe there is,’ he said.

We’d been talking about setting up our own business, making funky work shirts and high-vis gear, for a while. Now we came up with a brilliant idea.

‘We could put some of the profits into raising awareness about mental health, as a tribute to Dan,’ I said to Ed, desperate to turn his tragic death into something positive.

Choosing the name TradeMutt – slang for loyal friend – we hired a designer to create a dog logo based on Ed’s godfather Slim’s dog, Cody, who had a limp ear. They also designed vibrant patterns that couldn’t be missed.

Remembering Dan’s passion for the Liverpool football team, we also added ‘YNWA’ on the pockets – an abbreviation of the team’s anthem, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

On the back was a label which read This Is A Conversation Starter, to encourage people to talk about mental health.

Cody inspired our logo
Cody inspired our logo (Credit: TIACS/Trade Mutts)
Us with a shipment of stock
Us with a shipment of stock (Credit: TIACS/Trade Mutts)

In March 2018, we proudly took some sample shirts to the local pub.

‘They’re great, where can I get one?’ person after person asked us.

Soon, word about our brand had spread, and we were even featured on 9NEWS.

Afterwards, the orders flooded in, and Ed and I were rushed off our feet.

To generate buzz, we asked customers to snap a photo of themselves wearing our shirts on Fridays, and share it on social media with the hashtag #funkyshirtfridays to help the conversation around mental health keep flowing.

‘Look at this!’ I said to Ed as people posted photos of themselves from all over Australia and as far away as Antarctica.

When one customer, Brad, came into the warehouse to buy some shirts, I was blown away by his story.

‘These shirts mean so much,’ he said, explaining his 18-year-old son had died by suicide.

It was people like him that were the driving force behind running our business – to start a culture shift and get tradies and blokes talking about mental health and, ultimately, prevent suicide.

As owning a business started to overwhelm me, I struggled with stress and my own mental health.

It got me thinking.

Where do people go once they’ve opened up about their problems?

Our shirts are being worn as far away as Pogo Gold Mine in Alaska
Our shirts are being worn as far away as Pogo Gold Mine in Alaska (Credit: TIACS/Trade Mutts)
Our shirts being worn at the Gympie Music Muster
(Credit: TIACS/Trade Mutts)

It can take time and money to see a GP for a mental care health plan and find a counsellor.

‘It’s easier to go to the pub,’ I said to Ed, frustrated.

Keen to put our profits into mental health, we hit on a great idea, setting up a free counselling service.

So, in June 2020, using half the profits from TradeMutt, we launched TIACS – This Is A Conversation Starter – a free counselling service for tradies, truckies, blue collar workers and their families.

It grew and grew, and in November last year we were blown away that two larrikins like us were nominated for Queensland Australian of the Year. As we had a yarn to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in our TradeMutt shirts, I could hardly believe it.

‘I’m so proud of you,’ my mum Loretta, 65, said.

To date, our team of 14 counsellors have helped over 13,000 people and given free support valued at over $2 million. The TradeMutt journey has helped Ed and me too.

It’s taught me the importance of looking after my own mental health.

I’m overwhelmed by the messages of support and thanks from our community of legends.

Watch out, because the TradeMutt boys are only just getting started. ●

Ed Ross, 29, says:

When Dan’s mate died, I tried to use humour to take his mind off it rather than working through it.

Neither of us were equipped to deal with it.

I’m so pleased TradeMutt has helped change the conversation around mental health and impacted so many people’s lives for the better.

For more

• For more information, visit and
• If you are struggling and need support, contact Lifeline for free 24/7 on 13 11 14 (Aus) or 0800 543 354 (NZ).

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