Mental Health Champions: Why & How Rebecca Newenham Of Get Ahead Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

An Interview With Michelle Tennant Nicholson

Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Authority Magazine
11 min readNov 30, 2022


Time in nature — I adore walking my dog, Sydney. It gives me time to think, and I generally don’t wear my headphones or listen to podcasts when I walk him. I used to feel the pressure to cram every moment with activity, but as I have got older, I realise that time to focus on the here and now and the natural beauty around me is more important. It starts my day the best way, and by the time I get to my desk, I am ready for whatever lies ahead.

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Rebecca Newenham.

After a successful career in corporate buying for retail head office, Rebecca Newenham set out to grow and scale a business that worked for her and her family. She founded Get Ahead in 2010 and has built a thriving, award-winning global VA franchise business. A business mentor, franchise consultant and flexible working champion, Rebecca published her first business book, ‘Virtually Yours’ in 2020 and won the British Franchise Association Franchise Balance award in 2021.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, UK, with my brother and parents. My father ran the largest junior school in England, and my mother ran her own tutorial agency. I learned a lot from both of them as I grew up. Working flexibly, my mother showed me that it was possible to contribute financially to the family and to do school drop off and pick-ups too. She was a great example, and I knew that one day I wanted to run my own business just like she did.

You are currently leading an initiative that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit more specifically about what you are trying to address?

For too long, there has been a stigma around mental health. But to me, promoting mental wellness is vital, and I am putting it centre stage in my business. Particularly as a remote team, it can be trickier to build relationships and really get to know and support each other. That’s why I introduced practical ways to bring the team together, like virtual Coffee & Chat sessions and Lunch & Learn sessions. I am providing a base for people to have open and honest communication because mental health affects all of us. We are also a female-orientated business, so we have hosted sessions on relevant topics like menopause, which affects many in our team. I want to bring issues into the open and promote discussion, sharing experiences to support each other.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Bringing up three daughters has made me really aware of the importance of mental health. On the one hand, it’s been heartbreaking to hear of some of their friends’ issues with their mental health, like eating disorders and depression. On the flip side, it has made me even more determined to promote a positive approach to mental wellness so that my girls can protect themselves if things get tough.

Meeting a Mental Health First Aid trainer at an event inspired me to take the next step. I didn’t even realise mental health first aid training was a thing, but I soon found a course to attend and was very glad I did.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

Completing the mental health first aid training in February this year was a game-changer for me. It really broadened my understanding of mental wellbeing and gave me the confidence and skills to implement changes. The 2-day course was fascinating. I realised I was quite naive before the course, and my eyes were truly opened. It focused my mind on my responsibilities to myself, my family and friends, and the virtual experts in my team.

Since then, I have introduced several changes in the business, including providing mental health first aid training as part of new franchisee inductions and a dedicated wellbeing area on our team communication platform, Circle, where we all share wellbeing tips, motivational quotes and ideas. I specifically discuss wellbeing in my monthly 121s with each of my franchisees. It’s essential that I listen to not just what they say but how they are saying it, so I can address anything they need, both personally and professionally. It’s also important that we don’t agree on specific targets for franchisees. Of course, I support and guide them, but I don’t hold them to specific targets as I know the toll that can take on wellbeing. It’s got to be what’s right for them. I believe that my franchisees perform at their best when they are happy, healthy and loving what they do; when they have goals and are supported to deliver them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Sadly, just over four years ago, I lost a client and a networking friend to suicide. Both cases were devastating, and in either case, I had no idea what was going on for those individuals. I didn’t see any signals. It was a complete and utter shock. It made me realise just how much we don’t know about people, even if we think we do, and much more conscious about supporting my team, which was brought to the fore further during Covid. We started our virtual coffee and chat sessions then to unite people and support each other.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

My mum has been amazing support throughout my life. She always told me to ‘keep your eyes on the prize’, and particularly since starting my own business, it’s been an invaluable piece of advice. As a business owner, it is so easy to get dragged into the day-to-day running of the company or to take things personally. She reminds me to keep sight of the bigger picture and why I started my business in the first place, to work flexibly around my family.

I have worked with several coaches who have helped me succeed in different ways. Bev Wilkinson was my first coach, and she made me realise what a fantastic investment coaching was — not just for me but for the business. More recently, working with coach Gloria Battini has helped me scale the business and manage my own time better. I used to have post-it notes and to-do lists everywhere, but Gloria encouraged me to embrace the benefits of digital, and I now use Trello instead. She also encouraged me to find ways to create more balance in my week, which has resulted in me making Wednesdays a day when I have no client meetings or calls. I choose to do something for myself, which helps me be more productive overall.

Another coach, Alistair Williams, has been working with me on my personal brand this year, looking at the areas that bring me energy and joy. As a result, I have launched a new mentoring service and become a volunteer mentor for Virgin Start Up, something which I am really enjoying. It gives me a chance to give something back and share my experience with others. I also can’t forget my book coach, Alexa. I put writing a book on my vision board many years ago, but it was meeting her that turned that idea into a reality. I was very proud to publish my first book on flexible working, Virtually Yours, in September 2020.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

I think there is still a lot of ignorance about mental health. People don’t really understand it, or they see it as having negative connotations. They worry that they will make themselves vulnerable by talking about it. It’s easier not to talk about it, and to hope it will go away. It’s also not like a physical health condition. There is no immediate cure — no course of antibiotics or operation that will fix it. I think employers don’t really want to bring it up because they don’t know how to support employees and vice versa; employees worry that their employers won’t understand or will see it as a weakness.

The mental health first aid training course made me realise we all have mental health, just like physical health. It can vary daily. We all have good days and bad days, areas we struggle with and areas we find easier. Keeping balance is key, and we can all benefit from tools and techniques to maintain that balance.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

For individuals, I think we all need to work on our listening skills, developing more active listening and a natural interest in other people. People are all individuals, with their own ways of dealing with things. For example, I have seen in our team and in my friends that menopause affects people in different ways, and we all need to be sensitive to each other’s unique experiences.

Society needs to provide opportunities and safe spaces for people to talk about mental health. Employers should feel confident instigating conversations about it, making it part of the norm. If we ignore mental health issues, they won’t go away. It’s much more likely they will actually get worse. For example, I use video calls instead of telephone with my monthly franchisee 121s. It gives me a much better view of their body language, and I can see how they respond to more probing questions, not shying away from personal issues that affect people’s performance at work. Being able to open up communication and support them in all areas of their life allows them to feel more connected to the business and able to contribute more. It’s much better to know if mental health issues are affecting your employees and to be able to support them.

I think many celebrities are doing a great job of using their influence to raise awareness about mental health. The government needs to factor mental health even more into government policy, making it more commonplace and easier for people to get help. I have friends who have struggled to get the support they need for themselves or their family members. We know the system is stretched, but we also know the right interventions can make a life-changing (and in some cases life-saving) difference.

What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own well-being and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Exercise — I have a Pilates class once a week, which I do with my daughter, boxing blitz classes, and a personal training session each week. Each of these forms of exercise plays a different role in my life, but they all hugely help with my mental health. I notice that I switch off, concentrate on what the trainer is telling me, and process things in my head. My personal training session is like a mini counselling session as I know my trainer so well now. I absolutely love it.
  2. Sleep is critical for me, and I really notice when I don’t have enough of it. I always try to be in bed by 10 o’clock and try not to look at my phone and read a book before bed. As my girls have got older and gone to university, not looking at my phone has become more challenging. Late evenings are often when they are up and want to chat or when I’m thinking about whether they are safely home. I really have to try and be strict with myself to prioritise my sleep, knowing I can always catch up with them another time.
  3. Time in nature — I adore walking my dog, Sydney. It gives me time to think, and I generally don’t wear my headphones or listen to podcasts when I walk him. I used to feel the pressure to cram every moment with activity, but as I have got older, I realise that time to focus on the here and now and the natural beauty around me is more important. It starts my day the best way, and by the time I get to my desk, I am ready for whatever lies ahead.
  4. Time management — I am very strict with my boundaries. I don’t work in the evenings, and I have Wednesdays off. I start the day with my personal training session and have no client meetings or calls those days but I try to catch up with friends instead. It’s made such a difference in giving me more balance in my week. I don’t share my mobile number out to many people but use our telephone answering service instead, allowing me to call people back when I am ready.
  5. Using the BeReal app — it’s an app my girls introduced me to, and I absolutely love it. It pings at random times during the day and early evening and encourages you to immediately take a photo of what you are doing. Seeing what my friends and family are up to each day gives me a real sense of connection, including to friends outside of the UK. It’s simple and honest, but it works for me.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

I am a huge fan of Mel Robbins. I love her twice-a-week podcast. The episode about adult friendships really resonated with me. Friendships are all about quality, not quantity. We should always be open to making new friends at any age and also accept that not all friendships are meant to last, and that’s ok. Sometimes people come in and out of your life for good reason.

I also have a favourite quote: “Don’t let anyone rent space inside your head unless they are a damn good tenant”. It really speaks to me! I have to work hard at not allowing this to happen, as I tend to overthink things. I am finding techniques to put things in perspective in my work and personal life. It inspires me to focus on my own mental health and the mental health of those around me.

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

More people need to feel that mental wellness is relevant to them. We can all help ourselves and each other by asking the right questions and listening to the answers. I would also encourage anyone to go on mental health first aid training. Whatever stage of life of mental health you are in, you can learn so much from the process, which will benefit you and all those around you in your work and personal life.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About the Interviewer: Inspired by the father of PR, Edward Bernays (who was also Sigmund Freud’s nephew), Michelle Tennant Nicholson researches marketing, mental injury, and what it takes for optimal human development. An award-winning writer and publicist, she’s seen PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. Michelle co-founded



Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Authority Magazine

A “Givefluencer,” Chief Creative Officer of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., Creator of