Jake Ball is the creator and host of the Balls Deep Podcast; a podcast full of deep and meaningful conversations about life, with a focus on mental health. Jake is from Southampton, he is a Maths with French graduate, and a keen sailor.
On the Balls Deep Podcast, Jake chats to people with different outward experiences to find commonalities from their inward experiences, something he hopes will provide a sense of companionship and soothing to the mental health struggles we face.
I sat down to spend 10 minutes with Jake Ball to discover what it is like to host a mental health podcast.
What inspired you to start the Balls Deep Podcast?
I have always loved having deep conversations with people, and finding commonalities of our experiences, whether positive or negative.
When I was at university, I joined university radio and I hosted a music show. I had invited people onto the show and interviewed bands which I really enjoyed, but I wanted to have those deeper conversations. I dabbled in starting a podcast: borrowed some kit and spoke to a few friends who I thought were interesting, but it was just talking – there was no real structure or concrete purpose behind it.
Towards the end of last year, I found out a school mate of mine died by suicide. It had a real impact on me. After a period of upset and confusion, I had a lightbulb moment: here is the purpose to my conversations. I knew I needed to do a podcast, with a backdrop of mental health, where I would have conversations with people. I think we need to talk more about these things, I especially think young men need to talk more about these things. So, I decided I would have those deep conversations with mental health as the backdrop.
I am in no way an expert; the bottom line is that I enjoy talking to people I am interested in and having deep conversations. It just happens to be that it is also relevant and useful to the wider mental health conversation.
Throughout your own journey with mental health, have deep conversations always been helpful?
Ironically, I am a culprit for not talking as much as I should. We all carry things with us that are tough to share, but I find having those open, deep chats (whether that is about aliens, God, the meaning of life, or any of life’s unanswerable questions) helpful. I find it in the shared empathy and understanding that we have a common experience. And that is the aim of my podcast: people go through all sorts of different struggles, some we will never relate to, but what we can relate to is the useful ways in which we deal with them.
What do you hope your podcast brings to people?
Companionship and common experience. I want people to feel like a fly on the wall, listening in to an interesting conversation. Hopefully, there is someone from a different walk of life opening up and being vulnerable that someone else can relate to. My only hope is that it is useful to one or two people, that someone may hear something they need to.
Where did your intrigue for mental health begin?
I think I had struggled with depression for a few years when I was younger and just not understood it. I thought I was lazy; I struggled to interact with people, I struggled with the world and getting out of bed. I read a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle which looks at observing your thoughts. The book was not explicitly about mental health, but it twigged for me that there was something going on in my head that did not define me. I realised I had a lot to learn.
I took a gap year and went through France on a little boat by myself. It was the first time I was fully isolated for a long period of time. Coming home, going to university and having to be social was such a drastic contrast and it really bought a lot of anxiety out of the woodwork.
There were times when I had reached out and was met with ‘what have you got to be depressed about’ or ‘you’re great, you’re always smiley and happy’. I felt like I could not talk to anyone about it. I later started to look at my own mental health, I saw a doctor and had some counselling. A lot of what I discovered helped me to make sense of things and to understand the way that my mind worked.
This came full circle when I had a year abroad in Paris. Having had the counselling prior, my second lone trip to France was quite different as I felt I had the tools to process my emotions.
It has been, and still is, an ongoing journey. I do not think it is ever something that can be ‘fixed’. For me, my mental health is so cyclical. I think it is good to be aware of that, you can’t read a book or go to a doctor and then be better forever. You just need a good toolbox for handling it. And I think it helps if we all support and encourage each other to be less fearful of these conversations.
What have you learned through the creation of the Balls Deep Podcast?
I have learned that it is productive, and quite therapeutic, to talk about mental health. I think everyone who has been on the podcast has enjoyed it and found it fulfilling which I have found encouraging.
I have learned about myself, that I am not as open as I thought I was. As much as I am trying to be an advocate, I am nowhere near perfect and this has shown me where I have room to grow.
What does the future hold for the Balls Deep Podcast?
I really enjoyed creating series one so I would love to keep it going. I am currently taking a break from recording to reflect and to think about how I want the podcast to look moving forward. I do not want it to stagnate, get boring or repetitive.
I would like series two to be in a similar light to series one but more polished. The aim is to continue showing that other people suffer with similar things that you might suffer from but they also have success in areas you would like to find success.
Dream Podcast Guest: Karl Pilkington
Highlight from Series One: Seb Ward’s spoken word poetry in episode 3.
Favourite Podcast to Listen to: Goes Without Saying by Sephy and Wing or The Ricky Gervais Podcast.
Top 5 habits or practices that aide your mental health: In no particular order…exercise, cold showers, sleep, routine and doing the things that I love.