Meet Kati Morton & Sean Saint-Louis, the Husband and Wife Duo using YouTube as a Safe Space to Talk about Mental Health
For Kati Morton and Sean Saint-Louis, YouTube is a place where they can foster safe, healthy conversations about mental health. The couple has found a way to combine their individual strengths to produce informal, fact-based videos about mental health. Along the way, they’ve picked up some valuable advice for new creators looking to start their own channel or those who want to address a sensitive topic on YouTube.
Video Views: 19,181,227
Channel Type: Education
Created: Dec 22nd, 2011
Five and a half years ago, Kati Morton and Sean Saint-Louis launched a YouTube channel where they share informal, educational videos about a wide variety of mental health topics. Sean works for a production company in southern California and Kati is a licensed therapist. They each bring their own sets of skills and professional knowledge to the project and the success of their collaboration is evidenced by more than 200,000 subscribers and 18.5 million views to date. Initially, their videos were focused on the treatment of eating disorders, Kati’s specialty. However, today their videos cover everything from depression, anxiety and abuse to other difficult topics such as abortion and what to expect during a therapy session.
What started as an experiment has grown far beyond what either Kati or Sean could have imagined, and they’re continually tweaking their model to figure out the best way to bring conversations about mental health to a broader audience.
“We just kind of combined our powers and hoped that good content would land where it was needed,” said Sean.
The original idea for the channel came from Sean, who saw the potential for his wife to use YouTube as a platform where she could directly interact with her viewers. The couple has tried several different video formats and posting schedules over the years, and currently they release new videos every week on Mondays and Thursdays. The Monday videos are “dry” according to Kati and more focused on mental health diagnostics and treatment. On Thursdays, Kati pulls from her FAQs to identify and address a topic that’s generating a lot of comments and questions among viewers.
“In the beginning, we thought we’d run out of video ideas within a couple months. What we ended up finding out was that people had more questions,” Sean said. “We will not run out,” Kati adds.
Input from viewers is extremely important to Kati largely because of the nature of the topics she covers. She keeps careful track of the questions viewers are asking, which helps her decide which mental health topics to cover next. No matter the subject, the first step in the production process is always research. If Kati doesn’t know the answer to a question or doesn’t feel comfortable addressing the issue, she reaches out to a colleague or consults a psychology journal or research paper. Posting approachable, yet fact-based and accurate content is a top priority for Kati and Sean, and research is an indispensable part of their production process. Kati also calls on her audience to share personal, firsthand experiences about a topic, which adds depth to the factual content she presents.
Collaboration in Action
When it comes to filming, their process is pretty low-tech. The couple almost always shoots their videos in the comfort of their home “studio,” which also serves as their dining room and living room. Sometimes they rearrange the furniture just to add a little variety. Kati said they like to batch-shoot, sometimes filming up to 12 videos at once, so they’re not scrambling to release two new videos on time every week. As for post-production, content is key. Kati does an initial edit to eliminate flubs and provide final approval of the mental health content she’s presenting. Sean finishes the edit by adding visual and audio effects and the intro sequence.
“The videos may be lighthearted YouTube videos, but at the end of the day they’re based on really sound mental health information from a therapist, so they really have to be treated as such,” said Sean.
The first videos ever posted on the channel were actually filmed with an iPhone. Today, the duo relies on a basic Panasonic camera, a Zoom recorder, and a couple of box lights to round out their production setup. They’ve also been able to access resources through YouTube Space L.A. for filming and learning more about ways to optimize YouTube as an educational platform.
“People don’t need to worry so much about the quality of the film itself, how it looks, as much as they think they do. You can have an iPhone, you can start creating today, and your audience will find you,” said Kati.
Keeping Viewers Safe on YouTube
Although the climate surrounding mental health is changing, there is still a certain amount of stigma attached to discussions of the subject. And it’s no secret that YouTube is prone to hosting particularly nasty interactions between viewers in video comment sections.
“I try to keep my channel a safe, happy place for people.”
— Kati Morton
Kati takes great care to keep the conversations positive and safe on her channel by approving all the comments before they’re posted on any of her videos. She said it’s important to establish a sense of security for her viewers by keeping harmful, trolling messages off of her posts. “I try to keep my channel a safe, happy place for people,” said Kati.
Kati hears from her fans, who call themselves Kinions, that the channel feels like a safe space, where they’re comfortable sharing personal information and asking sometimes difficult questions about mental health. By investing time in research and committing to sharing accurate, fact-based information with viewers, Kati has gained a following of fans who come to her channel looking for answers to the personal, painful questions they might not be able to ask anywhere else.
As the channel has grown, it’s been more difficult for Kati to keep up with the feedback she receives from viewers across all her social media accounts.
“I used to be able to answer everybody’s questions. I’d get on YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and I’d answer everything and it slowly became a realization that I can’t do that, I can’t keep up with it,” she said.
Now, she responds directly to questions and comments on her videos for 24 hours after they’re posted. She keeps track of the trends she sees in viewer questions to guide future content. If one question is asked by a lot of viewers, it’ll get added to the top of her list of video ideas.
Adapting Along with a Growing Channel
Sean and Kati still conceive of their project as a small channel, but there’s no denying that the number of followers is growing at an increasing rate. They said they’ve seen a significant uptick in subscribers over the past year, which coincides with more and more people, including several high profile celebrities, engaging in open discussions about mental health and slowly working to break down the stigma attached to the subject.
“We realized we have to keep growing this in order to make it sustainable.”
— Sean Saint-Louis
When they started the channel more than five years ago, neither Sean or Kati could have predicted how much the channel would grow or how important it would become in their lives and the lives of so many viewers. “We realized we have to keep growing this in order to make it sustainable or to make it a viable business at home. We definitely track the growth through subscribers, through watch time, through how many actual views there are on a video,” said Sean.
Another way they’ve fostered the channel’s growth is through several recent collaborations between Kati and well-known YouTubers including Hannah Hart and Grace Helbig. In these videos, Kati sits down with Helbig and Hart for informal conversations where they talk about personal experiences with self-care and combating the stigma surrounding mental health. Through these collaborations, Kati and Sean are able to get their content in front of a much broader audience as well as learn and gain insights about the platform from fellow creators. Sean says they’ve spent years building relationships with other YouTubers, which are just now resulting in collaborations. He said it’s important for young creators to invest time in relationship-building or collaborations can come off as disingenuous and rushed.
Advice for Creators
Sean and Kati have learned a lot over the past five and a half years, and still say they haven’t totally figured out which YouTube strategy works best for their content and style. Kati says one thing she tells new creators is that running a channel is a lot of work, so it’s important that the topic is something you’re passionate about.
“People who are getting into YouTube and deciding they want to create a channel don’t realize how much work it is, so make sure it’s something you love,” said Kati.
She also said it’s important to be consistent with your audience as far as the type of content you’re creating and the frequency of your posts.
Sean added that running a channel means constantly adapting to best fit your creative needs. He and Kati are continually rethinking and tweaking their channel based on YouTube’s recommendations and to accommodate feedback they receive from viewers. He said in order to foster growth, it’s important to diversify your content and create videos that are not only informative, but shareable and compelling.
In the future, Sean and Kati hope to work on diversifying their content by producing videos that depict mental health in different creative styles and are more shareable across all social media. They hope to continue growing their audience and creating content specifically for use in educational settings by college professors, police officers and EMTs.
Sean said his biggest piece of advice would be to just go for it.
“I think if anyone is just sitting on the sidelines saying ‘When should I launch my channel…’ — just do it and figure it out as you go. It’s not getting less crowded; a year from now it’s going to be even busier, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” he said.