Nontraditional KU students’ Kensington Corner podcast aims to help listeners feel better
photo by: Kathy Hanks
A bond of friendship between two men has grown into a podcast with the two discussing everything from stress and anxiety to men’s relationships.
The Kensington Corner is a podcast created by Jeff Thompson, 32, and Tom Angel, 31, who are both nontraditional students majoring in pre-medicine at the University of Kansas.
Last fall semester, they started meeting for coffee and having discussions about life and found themselves being very candid with each other regarding their mental health issues. Both men came to KU with major life experience under their belts.
Angel had served on active duty with the U.S. Army for nine years with four deployments — two in Iraq and one each in Afghanistan and Syria — and returned with post-traumatic stress disorder. Thompson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during his sophomore year at West Point. Since then, he has earned a degree in history from KU and dealt with depression.
But they have both begun something new: working toward careers in the medical profession. For now, they try not to think about the long road ahead. They focus on the present, Thompson said.
Sitting in Alchemy Coffee & Bake House, 816 Massachusetts St., on a recent afternoon, they talked about how the podcast came about.
“We would get together at 5 a.m. for coffee before our 8 a.m. class,” Thompson said. “One day we had been chewing the fat for an hour and decided we should do a podcast.”
How to listen
Find the podcast online at thekensingtoncorner.com.
Angel had already been giving thought to a podcast and had a buddy from the Army lined up to be the sound engineer.
Though they don’t want to box themselves in focusing strictly on health issues, the topics they keep circling back to relate to health, from PTSD to handling stress and anxiety, strength conditioning and men’s spa day.
The podcast’s name, Kensington Corner, came from Angel. He grew up in poverty in Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., living in a trailer park named Kensington Corner. He likes the name because it takes him back to his upbringing, reminding him that people can change.
Ironically, the podcast’s name appealed to someone from the upscale Kensington neighborhood in London, England, who reached out via email to say he was listening. Two weeks after going live on May 29, they had listeners from 31 countries.
Thompson and Angel openly discussed their personal mental health issues and how therapy changed their lives during their first podcast, “Dealing with Stress and Anxiety and Depression.”
Guests on the podcast from the community have included three veterans discussing PTSD, and local health enthusiasts discussing everything from strength training to Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction.
“Just sitting down and having a conversation is therapeutic,” Thompson said.
Although getting men to open up and discuss emotions was taboo for earlier generations, Thompson and Angel hope the podcast might encourage others to talk about their feelings.
“The approach we take in our relationship and on the podcast is to be very open,” Thompson said. “If you are opening up, people will follow your lead.”