BUSINESS representative bodies, like Commerce Ballarat, will have access to mental health first aid training in a bid to better guide small businesses through the pandemic.
Victoria's Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford announced details of the government's $26 million plan in Ballarat on Wednesday with charity St John Ambulance to lead training across the state.
As part of the program, mental health specialists will be trained within business associations to offer members access to experts who both understand industry challenges and can identify and respond to people in distress.
When we're overwhelmed we don't make great decisions. It is really important people in our business community are making good and sound decisions.Victorian Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford
"They might be calling about grants, or they might be talking about rules, but if someone who is talking to them, someone who is there at end of the line can recognise mental health issues and can recognise that emotional distress, then they will be able to make a gentle and appropriate intervention and steer people in the best way of support," Minister Pulford said.
"When we're overwhelmed we don't make great decisions. It is really important people in our business community are making good and sound decisions. This is very, very difficult territory they are chartering ...We want (small business owners) to come through it in good health."
The program follows state funding announced late last week to help sole traders and small and medium business owners in the stress and emotional impacts of the coronavirus lockdowns and rapidly changing restrictions.
Minister Pulford was "incredibly proud" of the way community businesses kept adapting and innovating to keep trading amid the pandemic, particularly in her hometown Ballarat.
At the same time, Minister Pulford recognised adjusting was not always possible nor appropriate for all businesses.
IN OTHER NEWS
St John Ambulance Victoria has long established its mental health support training in what the organisation's chief executive Gordon Botwright said was a program "akin to physical first aid".
"We train people to be first responders, but in a mental health setting," Mr Botwright said.
"Being a calming, caring hand for somebody who is going through distress, helping them to ask the right questions so they can understand the experience that person is going through before passing them on to the relevant professional they need."
Government funding will also see the free Partners in Wellbeing hotline extend to 10pm, seven days a week with immediate access to business and financial counsellors: 1300 375 330.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.