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Ross Van Allen: Triumph Over Adversity in Psychiatric Care

Pscyhiatric care giver Ross Van Allen is depicted in this photo

Ross Van Allen provides psychiatric care at Axis Integrated Mental Health, whose own journey into mental health care is as inspiring as it is transformative. After realizing that the career path he had meticulously planned was wrong for him, Ross found himself struggling with depression and anxiety. But rather than letting this experience destroy him, he channelled his struggle into empathy and support for others. Read on if you'd like to learn more about Dr. Van Allen.

Tell us about your background and what got you started in psychiatric care?

The first time I started thinking about entering the mental health field professionally was after my own experience with a bout of depression and anxiety. At the time, I’d spent roughly 7 years trying to achieve my goal of being a nurse anesthetist. I worked really hard in school to get good grades, declined social events to study, took extra classes to build up my resume, and anything I could think of to achieve my goal. After getting into one of the top programs in the country, I realized that I wasn’t prepared to handle the coursework or the nature of work, and eventually had to withdraw from the program. This led to a rapid decline in my mental health, but after recovering, I realized that I needed to use this experience to help others.

When you're not delivering empathetic psychiatric care in Aurora and Louisville, Colorado, what do you in your free time?

In addition to my dedication to providing holistic and integrative psychiatric care, I place a strong emphasis on maintaining a balanced lifestyle that nurtures my own mental and physical well-being. Recognizing the profound benefits of nature on mental health, I actively prioritize spending time outdoors, particularly in the breathtaking landscapes of Colorado, which are still new to me.

I'm also currently preoccupied with dog training, which might be a great way to practice discipline, patience, and empathy not just with your dog but with yourself.

Finally, exercise, not only for its physical health benefits but also for its proven efficacy in alleviating stress, anxiety, and depression. It's part of my holistic approach to wellness that resonates deeply with the ethos of comprehensive psychiatric care.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Eating any sort of sweets.

What’s something that you were skeptical about but actually surprised you because it’s so effective?

One thing I’ve been experimenting with lately is making contracts with myself and have found them surprisingly effective. For example, I drafted a contract to myself stating that I will walk x number of steps per day for x number of days, and signed it. I also had my partner sign it as a witness. If I break the contract, I start over again.

If there was one thing that you could get more patients to do to take care of their mental health, what would it be?

Get outside more. There are so many benefits to being outside that it’s impossible to list them all here. Currently, we spend ~93% of our time indoors sitting and staring at screens.

Do you define success differently today than you did when you were younger? How?

Yes, very differently. When I was younger, success to me was making as much money as possible, having a big house and owning fancy cars. Now, success is using as much as my free time as possible to spend on interesting hobbies and getting outdoors as much as possible.

Do you have any tips for managing your mental health?

I just read an article that exercise is as effective as antidepressants. The authors went through and examined which exercises were most effective and the top three were walking, jogging, and….dancing. So my top tip is to walk or jog, preferably outdoors, and dance. In fact, Axis Integrated Mental Health is even prepared to help you do that through their social prescribing program. Many of our patients walk at the Denver Botanic Gardens, which we give them tickets to go to for free.

Do you have any hobbies, projects or side hustles that you’re passionate about?

My main hobbies right now are hiking, biking, running, and weightlifting. I also dabble in dog training.

What’s the phone app you use the most?

Outlook email.

What’s a book you think everyone should read?

The Comfort Crisis and Scarcity Brain by Michael Easter.

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