CAPS’ self-help videos recognized with national media award

Counseling and Psychological Services recently won an award for its self-help video series. Each of the 10 videos features a “Mountain Hipster” character created by Student Affairs graphic artist Carol Barnao.

Ten self-help videos produced by Western Carolina University’s Counseling and Psychological Services have become a YouTube sensation with students and have now garnered attention nationally.

CAPS recently won the Media Award for the video series from the Association of University and College Counseling Centers and Directors. The videos were made as a creative way for CAPS to reach more students, said Kim Gorman, director of CAPS. After presenting a proposal to the University of North Carolina System, CAPS received an $18,000 grant to produce 10 self-help videos for students.

Kim Gorman, CAPS director

“It’s so meaningful in so many ways,” Gorman said of winning the award. “I think it was just an attestation to the hard work that we put into it – just the acknowledgement of the impact that we wanted it to have in terms of assisting students with their mental health needs. What an incredible team of individuals that work here who are willing to use creativity to reach students.”

Acknowledging that students access information quickly, easily and readily, Gorman and her staff realized that web-based videos would be the perfect platform to reach them. They also realized the videos needed to be presented in a creative and engaging way.

Gorman, CAPS assistant director Betsy Aspinwall and counselor Paula Demonet decided to focus on 10 themes. Collectively, they wrote the scripts for each video, based on research literature on the affective practice, Gorman said.

The 10 topics selected were:

  • Wellness 101 – An examination of the seven elements of wellness and how they can have an effect on your life.
  • Mindfulness – How to engage in mindful practices.
  • 4 Fabulous Skills For Depression and Anxiety – Features simple skills to assist individuals in coping with depression and anxiety.
  • Perfectionism – Teaches the differences between perfectionism and healthy achievers.
  • A Better Night’s Sleep – Teaches how to have good sleep practices.
  • Motivation – Learn skills to motivate yourself.
  • Navigating Difficult Discussions – How to approach someone to talk about an issue that might be uncomfortable.
  • Self-esteem – Ways to improve how you think about yourself.
  • Crisis Situation Skills – Three things to help you navigate crisis situations and avoid making a tough situation worse.

Eric Smith, a tech support analyst with the Department of Information Technology, filmed, edited and produced the videos. Carol Barnao, a Division of Student Affairs graphic designer, developed characters that Gorman affectionately named “Mountain Hipsters” for the videos.

The feedback from students has been positive, Gorman said. Since they became available in September 2018 on both YouTube and the CAPS’ website, Gorman said the videos have had nearly 1,500 views.

While the grant covered only the first 10 videos, CAPS has filmed another one called “Everybody Matters” that has not been released yet. As stipulated in the grant, CAPS will continue to produce one video per semester, Gorman said.

To market the videos, CAPS staff members have made posters featuring the Mountain Hipsters that list all of the videos. The posters have been displayed in the residence halls and provided to professors to display in the academic buildings.

Gorman said the project also has led to a “Health Moments” spot on WCU’s campus radio station, WWCU-FM 90.5.