Pannikins help spread mental health message

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Watheroo farmer Brad Millsteed.
Camera IconWatheroo farmer Brad Millsteed. Credit: Cally Dupe

In two short years, Brad Millsteed has gone from a Watheroo farmer to one of the best-known mental health advocates outside Perth.

He’s done it by tapping powerful emotions related to men talking to their mates, or the lack of it, and encouraging blokes to keep in touch, primarily using Twitter.

Mr Millsteed’s latest pursuit came to life in 2018 when he was awarded $2500 at the Syngenta Growth Awards for his work advocating for mental health.

This money was used to establish the #6Bs brand and supply a run of 100 pannikins.

He set about gifting pannikins marked with “#6Bs” — the name of a group he helped to found as a way to bring men together.

The premise is simple: bring blokes living regionally across the state together for “six Bs” — blokes, barbecue, bonfire, bonding, beer and bulldust.

He has kicked against isolation by organising catch-ups for regional men to socialise and relax in an informal setting.

In September, he set out on a “pannikin run”, to deliver free pannikins to 100 men in regional WA who had helped get the initiative up and running.

The 6Bs pannikins.
Camera IconThe 6Bs pannikins. Credit: Brad Millsteed

“I chose pannikins (because) ... they are a lot like us blokes,” Mr Millsteed said.

“They are pretty robust, tough, almost unbreakable, but do get chipped and dented along our life journey.”

In December, the cups became available for the public to buy for $15.

“I kept getting demand from people on Twitter wanting to buy cups,” Mr Millsteed said.

The #6Bs held its first gathering on May 8, 2017.

Since then, the group has gone on to hold eight branded #6Bs event, including five at Mr Millsteed’s Watheroo farm.

“I am targeting the middle-aged onwards — we feel too young for men’s sheds and too old for footy,” he said.

“There isn’t really a target audience, it’s just that is my age group.

“It really is just an opportunity for any guy to get out (of) their normal place and catch up with other guys in a relaxed atmosphere with no pressures to be or do.

“It is an opportunity to get on and catch up. I always try to have the #6Bs on a midweek, because weekends are for family.”

What works for Mr Millsteed and seems to be attracting scores of followers to his Twitter account — @BradMillsteed — is the simplicity of his message.

“It is about giving blokes the chance to have some important conversations about all things, physical, mental and life in general,” he said. In coming weeks, he and some of the other men involved in the #6Bs are going to sit down and decide what the profits will be used for.

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