Happy Birthday Sarah Long Mental Health & Wellbeing

A paper napkin with writing on it saying "Do what you love!"

So about a year ago this week I ran my first freelance Mental Health First Aid course in Halifax and started my self-employed journey with the wobbly legs of a baby giraffe.

I’d been training for a few years back at my old employer so the training side of things was nothing new – I knew I could do it, well, and I knew I enjoyed it and found it incredibly rewarding. The question is can you do something you enjoy and also pay the rent? Could I make it work, get enough bookings? Would doing this as my “main” gig gradually sap the joy out of it?

Well – so far so reasonably good. It has been a slow builder, some months better than others, lots of learning experiences. Some successes, some less than successes. I’m still on the fence about the long term but failing disaster I’m hoping I can carry on for a while yet.

I’ve worked with a variety of partners, Unite the Union, MHFA England, St John Ambulance – I’ve also tried running independent courses but so far, a combination of running costs and difficulty getting people to book on – means that isn’t very viable. I’d love to have some courses scheduled through the year for people to book on to, but it feels like I am messing venues about when I end up cancelling all the time. Though I will try again!

I have run 12 non branded and 28 MHFA courses. Trained probably nearly 500 people. May-July was about right. If I can get back to that I can survive.

Do I still enjoy training? 90% absolutely. I still get to have amazing conversations, help people overcome stigma and recognise how they can help themselves and others in their lives. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all roses – I am not the queen of early mornings, travel is tiring, and some days my own mental health might not be totally overjoyed about standing up and “performing” in front of people. But so far I have been able to do it pretty well, and I shake off the cobwebs soon enough. The admin I actually enjoy – ditto marketing though I need to find a way of getting enough done on my days of focus to make up for head fog the rest of the month. There is stress. Worry over whether I have enough work, especially when things get cancelled. Technological nightmares (yesterday all my videos seemed to be possessed by chipmunks). Travel chaos (Beast from the East… I’m looking at you). Knowing that a whole room of people are depending on you to get there, get it working and do it right and well – or you’re wasting their time and someone’s money. That’s stressful. But not the same kind of stress that used to make me ill in my old job. I have a good work/life balance going – I am forcing myself to do productive things when not training, setting goals, and working towards them. Constantly learning and updating my knowledge in one way or another. So I really hope I can make this year better than last and keep going.

A new partner to work with would be great – to bring new opportunities in different areas or sectors, and I also hope to add some different course options to my offer as well. So anyway – Bring on Year 2. Lets see what you’ve got

I offer a range of Mental Health Awareness and Mental Health First Aid courses – I can come and train on-site at your organisation or arrange off-site accommodation. If you are wanting to roll out Mental Health training to your staff, your line managers, your HR team – if you are wanting to improve the way Mental Health is handled in your workplace – get in touch and I’d love to help.


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