Feature story garners international recognition

Sports Information Officer Rich Abney won the grand gold award at the Council of Advancement and Support of Education for the story he wrote chronicling Timberwolves men's soccer player Michael Henman's mental health journey.

February 3, 2020
Michael Henman and Rich Abney
Men's soccer player Michael Henman (left) shared his mental health story with UNBC Sports Information Officer Rich Abney. The resulting story won the writing grand gold award at the CASE District VIII awards.

Finding the right words to talk about mental health is never easy. Stories are personal and fraught with emotion, but they are can also be powerful and even empowering for the individual sharing their story as well as for readers.

University of Northern British Columbia men’s soccer player Michael Henman has faced his share of mental health challenges. Last spring, after two sudden deaths at a local high school, Henman decided the time was right to share his story. The second-year student reached out to UNBC Sports Information Officer Rich Abney and the two engaged in a series of caring, compassionate and heart-felt conversations about Henman’s journey.

The result was a story rich with vivid story-telling, hope, and inspiration for those facing their own challenges, either publicly or privately.

The story had an immediate impact, helping to advance the discussion around mental wellness and mental health on the UNBC campus and in the broader community. Last week, the story won the grand gold for writing at the Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VIII awards.

“Michael’s bravery in facing his anxiety and his decision to share his story in order to inspire others is a true demonstration of leadership,” says UNBC Acting President Dr. Geoffrey Payne. “The story Rich produced in partnership with Michael is engaging, compelling and deserving of the CASE grand gold.

“Our students’ mental wellness is of paramount importance to everyone at UNBC. As a campus community, we are committed to constantly enhancing the mental health services available to all our students.”
The judges looked at the quality of writing and editing, the development of the idea, the story’s creativity and originality and the overall impact it had.

The metrics are outstanding. The story has been viewed on the UNBC website more than 5,000 times, making it among the top four stories for page views over the past five years. In addition, multiple local media outlets picked up the story and The Citizen newspaper in Prince George printed the entire 4,800-word story in full.

“Our student-athletes provide us with many exceptional stories to share about their exploits on the pitch, on the court, in the classroom and in the community. Michael’s story is special because he trusted Rich to document his amazing journey to become a Timberwolf,” says UNBC Director of Athletics and Recreation Loralyn Murdoch. “Rich did a brilliant job capturing the emotional swings and personal triumph as Michael challenged himself to compete in Canada West. Congratulations on the recognition from CASE.”