When it comes to the industrial sector, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't a bunch of tough, burly blokes talking about their emotional struggles.
But a group of Hunter companies is trying to break that stereotype with a new campaign to help their employees during Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond.
Waratah based manufacturer Molycop partnered with Newcastle creative agency Out of the Square to bring together more than 20 businesses from the industrial sector to share their stories via video for the Everyone has a story campaign. The videos were shared at an industry day in Newcastle on Wednesday.
Some of the moving stories included workers talking about marriage breakdowns, the loss of a child, workplace accidents and other struggles. The participants also spoke about what helped them get through their difficult times.
"There were some really powerful stories," Molycop HR manager Kayla Parker said. "A lot of them were just looking for a platform to talk about it."
"To see these big, boofy blokes just opening up was incredible," Out of the Square director Marty Adnum said.
"In my 35 years shooting videos I haven't seen anything like it. It was really courageous of people to speak out so publicly, knowing it's going to benefit others.
"In an industry hellbent on physical safety, there's often more below the surface that doesn't get seen."
The concept was formed in September when Molycop usually holds an annual mental health themed month for RU OK?
Ms Parker said with the mental health struggles related to COVID-19 this year, she realised they would have to do something bigger than usual.
"It's more important than ever at the moment," she said.
The company called for stories, and soon Ms Parker realised the initiative could be even greater.
"We wanted to open it up to others, so we started contacting other businesses and pushed it back to October," she said.
Westrac safety, security and risk general manager Gareth Hughes said his workplace had its own internal mental health initiatives, but jumped at the chance to be a part of the collaborative project.
"There's a real power to sharing stories and bringing businesses together," he said. "We all live in the same community. Mental health doesn't discriminate."
Mr Hughes admitted he was nervous when the company called for participants, but was pleasantly surprised when there was a strong response.
"There was massive support for it," he said. "We did three videos, the first one went out today and I'm already getting emails with good feedback about it."
Lifeline Hunter New England Central Coast regional general manager Julie Wicks said the initiative was wonderful and would help both the participants and others who see the stories.
"We're very proud to support this initiative," she said. "This will actually encourage people to talk.
"These are male-dominated industries. We know the stats around men and the stigma within the male population. This is a wonderful initiative to get men to be brave and talk about mental health."
Ms Wicks said with initiatives such as RU OK? many people now know to ask about others' wellbeing, but might not necessarily know what to do next.
"It's a given to ask," she said. "But what do I do if they're not okay? This initiative will help with that.
"It's an extremely positive step in the right direction and a fantastic launch of something that will continue to grow and we'll continue to be a part of."
Ms Parker said an ongoing committee was being set up to continue the initiative into the future.
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