Mental health is an important part of our overall health, yet many Australians struggle. Did you know that one in five adults1 has experienced a mental health illness, such as anxiety and depression, in the previous 12 months?
TIACS (This Is a Conversation Starter), a non-profit social purpose organisation, provides free and accessible mental health counselling services Australia-wide, supported by key industry Alliance corporate partners like Coates. With a focus on supporting blue-collar communities, the demand for TIACS services continues to grow, so we invited Jon – an experienced TIACS qualified counsellor – to explain how, who and when TIACS can help, and what you can expect if you call.
“TIACS is the starting point for your mental health conversation, and we can provide coping strategies for head noise, relationship problems, addictions, anxiety attacks, depression, grief and other issues people are experiencing," says Jon. “If someone needs more urgent care or a different type of help, TIACS acts as a mental health hub to connect other support services. TIACS can also advocate, write referrals and make calls on someone’s behalf to keep the conversation going.”
“The first time someone reaches out to their GP for a mental health referral, they may experience long wait times to receive help – a delay that can leave them feeling vulnerable and unsure about how to improve their situation in the short term,” says Jon. “TIACS bridges this gap, offering support to people with a connection to blue collar industries – whether you’re a truckie, live in a rural area, you’re married to a plumber, or your parent works in construction.”
Do you need mental health support? Call or text TIACS on 0488 846 988
Anyone 18 years and over (or 16-18 years if you have the capacity to provide informed consent i.e., apprentices) can access up to eight free phone counselling sessions with TIACS. The sessions can be arranged at a time of day or night and through a channel (phone or SMS) that’s convenient to you. If you need more than eight sessions, you may benefit from longer-term help and TIACS can connect you with a suitable provider.
TIACS is mindful of the fact that the blue-collar workforce is predominantly male; that three quarters of those who take their own life in Australia are male; and that a high proportion of TIACS callers are also male. “As a counsellor, it’s a privilege to support a demographic of Australians that may otherwise struggle to seek help because of the stigma surrounding mental health,” says Jon. “We’re also proud to support women in blue collar industries, as we know it can be tough to gain respect working on some job sites.”
Unlike crisis phone support services like Lifeline or Coates’ Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which are available 24/7, TIACS provides an early intervention mental health support service. “If someone needs 24/7 crisis support then Beyond Blue or Lifeline are a great start, though if they'd prefer to speak with the same counsellor on a regular basis then TIACS is here to support them Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm,” says Jon.
A lack of privacy or anonymity can be barriers in seeking support, but the great thing about TIACS’ phone counselling service is that it allows people who may not ordinarily be comfortable talking about their mental health to do so in a less intimidating way.
"Our calls are private, and all information is kept internally within TIACS. This means that what you share won't impact your medical records or employability, nor will your boss know you attended counselling,” says Jon. “The only exception is the rare event that records are subpoenaed or if a counsellor is obligated to contact emergency services to protect a client from imminent harm. Beyond that, TIACS takes every measure possible to protect people's privacy."
TIACS is all about accessibility. “We know how hard it can be to reach out, and that many people prefer everyday language to a more clinical approach, so we try to make each conversation with TIACS feel as comfortable as an everyday chat,” says Jon.
Here’s what you can expect from your first call:
Mental health initiatives like TradeMutt’s Funky Shirt Friday, which many Coates branches in the North BU participate in, and R U OK? Day are great reminders to check in on our mates, colleagues and loved ones. But if you sense that someone is having a hard time, what can you do?
"Since TIACS cannot make unsolicited calls, the best option is to pass on our number to your mate who is struggling and explain how easy it is to send a text and receive confidential support. Once your mate has reached out, we will look after them,” says Jon. “You can always call or text TIACS yourself if you are worried about a mate. You don't have to go through this alone and we are glad to support legends who look out for others."
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