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Conversations with Jeff Allen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Allen.

Hi Jeff, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
When I was first married, at the age of 25, I had a very public anxiety attack.

I didn’t realize at the time that it was an anxiety attack, but my wife started putting two and two together and recommended that I bring up this moment to my primary care doctor. My doctor agreed with my wife and that is when I started medication for anxiety and depression.

At the time, I worked for a very large, evangelical church in the metro-east and the subject of mental health just seemed unwelcome among the congregation. I was scared to open up about it in any way.

But one day, I saw a blog post from a Christian blogger named Carlos Whittaker. He talked about his struggles with mental health. His story was almost exactly mine. Seeing him have the courage to talk about it gave me the courage as well. I knew that at the time more people were struggling alone with mental health issues than could admit it. So I decided then and there that my mission would be to smash stigmas around mental health the very best that I could.

Eventually, this all led to me starting the podcast Simple Mental Health. In order for people to see that it’s just another, normal health issue and that a lot of people deal with it. It’s really not a thing to be embarrassed about.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
At first, when I started speaking out about my mental health I received some backlash in the form of direct messages on Facebook. They were mostly religious people.

Basically, they were telling me that I must not have enough faith in God if I need medication for my anxiety and depression. Thankfully, I was able to let them know that I take medication for other health issues, why would my mental health be any different? They all pretty much backed off at that point.

As far as the podcast goes, the irony of putting yourself out there when it comes to mental health is that it can be anxiety-inducing. All worth it to help people be seen.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Along with my mental health podcast, which is really my passion project, I also work at The Gathering.

The Gathering is an inclusive church in St. Louis with three sites and a heavy online presence. My main focus is tending to the online side of things by creating videos, live streams, and other social content in order to help more people connect to the church and start to explore their faith. I cohost a mini talk show for our online audience and it’s a lot of fun.

I also get to make podcasts as part of my job, which has really started to pull ahead as my main passion medium. I love the challenges and learning more about audio production. Video production is a huge part of my job. I get to tell stories and I also get to make music videos with very talented musicians, and as a former worship leader, I get to step in and play music from time to time as well.

I’ve made a short documentary about the local mid-century modern architect, the late Charles King, and spent a day with Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez as they campaigned for Cori in 2018. I’ve been in several bands around town and have enjoyed playing live. I miss that a lot and hope to get back into it in the near future.

Those are mostly behind-the-scenes roles, and so what I think I’m becoming known for in the community is the Simple Mental Health podcast. We even have a private Facebook group of over 600 people who feel safe about sharing their struggles and being supported by others.

We were able to raise money for an individual who could not afford talk therapy and gift them with time with a therapist. It’s been a wild ride so far.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts, or blogs that help you do your best?
Something that is important to me for myself and for others is the idea of being seen.

So I follow a lot of social media accounts and hashtags on Instagram that have something to do with mental health, personality types, attachment types, and the like. Seeing other people put words to the things I’m feeling really helps me understand myself.

I also love to skip around to podcasts based on topic. So if a podcast is discussing mental health coping strategies I’ll take a listen. If they’re discussing the enneagram, specifically my number, which is 4 by the way, I’ll check it out.

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Image Credits
Cori Bush, AOC, Jodie Allen Seventh, and Tyler Curtis

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