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Psychiatric Care in Denver with McKenna Bagan, PMHP

Pictured is McKenna Bagan who delivers psychiatric care in denver.

McKenna Bagan delivers exceptional psychiatric care in Denver. She is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and a board-certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. She started her career in OBGYN, but she soon discovered the glaring need for quality mental health care in her community and her passion for psychiatry.

Since then, she has been providing psychiatric care across the lifespan from children to adults of all ages. She has specialized knowledge in hormonal issues and how these influence women’s mental health. McKenna is dedicated to helping her patients pursue mental well-being from an integrative approach.

Q1: How did you begin your journey providing psychiatric care in Denver?

A: I was born and raised in Colorado, but I left for a short time to pursue my undergraduate and graduate studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. I have always been interested in mental health, and I have several family members that struggle with severe persistent mental illness. However, it wasn’t until I took a class in college centered around Social Determinants of Health that my interest turned into something that I wanted to pursue as a career path.

After completing my undergraduate studies in Organizational Development and Financial Economics, I completed an accelerated program to obtain a Master of Science in Nursing, with a specialty in Women’s Health. During my Nurse Practitioner program, I worked in a correctional facility as a psych nurse, and I knew that I would eventually one day return to school to pursue an additional board certification in psychiatry. For 2 years, I practiced in the OBGYN setting.

During the pandemic, I saw firsthand the glaring need for quality psychiatric care in Denver. Being the only provider that a lot of my patients would see during the year, they relied on me increasingly to help with mental health care, and I decided then that I would return to school.

I am so completely passionate about this work, and I feel so grateful to be able to pursue what I love daily.

Q2: How do you spend your free time when you're not delivering amazing psychiatric care in Denver?

A: I spend my free time reading (on book #8 of 2024 already…), traveling, doing crossword puzzles, and enjoying the electronic music scene in Denver with my incredible partner Tom.  

Q3: What’s something you’ve struggled with in the past that you’ve overcome and how does that experience inform your practice?

I honestly think having had my own experiences with mental health challenges has helped me to deliver better psychiatric care in Denver to my patients. I will always remember the first therapist that I truly connected with as an undergraduate student. She was warm, validating, and taught me mindfulness practices, which honestly changed my life. It was the first time that I had ever felt heard by a mental health professional, while also getting tools to help me in real time. I do feel that pursuing treatment myself has led me to be a more compassionate, curious, and empathetic care provider and it makes me really excited to help other young people dealing with teenage depression.

Q4: What areas do you think are under researched in mental health services?

The correlation between hormonal fluctuations and mental health represents a compelling area of inquiry, encompassing diverse facets such as the intersection of PCOS with mental health, the mental health implications of the menopausal transition, and the effects of hormonal shifts during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Despite its significance, this realm remains largely underexplored, presenting ample opportunities for further investigation and understanding.

Q5: What’s your guilty pleasure?

A lazy weekend. We love spending a weekend day here and there at home without leaving the house in our Pajamas. Also love anything with buffalo sauce on it 😊

Q6: What’s something that you were skeptical about but actually surprised you because it’s so effective?

I've been delivering psychiatric care in Denver for a while and pharmacogenomic testing really suprised me. Although it is just one tool in our toolbox, it can assist your provider with making neurobiologically informed medication management decisions. I have loved reviewing testing results with my clients and helping them to understand themselves better! It is so fun to explore treatment options with my clients on a scientific level. I love to nerd out on psychopharmacology, and educating my patients so they feel like an informed part of the decision-making process is invaluable.

Q7: If there was one thing that you could get more patients to do to take care of their mental health, what would it be?

Taking the time to explore their purpose! Whether that is through family, a hobby, exercise, work, or more, I believe that we all need something to drive us. A pharmaceutical option can only do so much when our lives feel without meaning.

This is one of the reasons I believe our TMS Therapy program has been so effective, especially with teenagers. Our storytelling protocol helps people truly understand what they want their life to mean. It's so much more than just 6 weeks of magnetic stimulation. We go above and beyond to give better insights to the therapists and psychiatric providers who are treating the patients when people are going through TMS and it's been truly life changing for so many patients.

Q8: Do you define success differently today than you did when you were younger? How?

I think that I used to base my professional success on whether patients made “improvement” on the plans that we had developed. I am now more flexible with success. Success may mean someone isn’t doing as well on a medication as we hoped, but they feel like they were listened to and supported. They feel like they have a provider who cares, who wants to collaborate with them, who is willing to meet them where they are. The number on a screening scale is meaningless to me in the context of a lackluster therapeutic interaction.

On a personal level, I am also more flexible with how I define my success. I tell my patients to give themselves compassion and grace, and I have started to implement the same for myself. On a day where I’m struggling with my own mood, success may mean something as simple as remembering to eat three meals to nourish my body and taking time to rest.

Q9: Do you have any tips for managing your mental health?

I know that everyone who delivers psychiatric care in Denver says the same thing, but exercise!  There seems to be some reluctance to admit how lifestyle modifications can positively impact mental health, but the evidence is there….and walking counts! 

Q10:Do you have any hobbies, projects or side hustles that you’re passionate about?

I’m currently teaching myself to sew! I would love to be able to start making my own clothes. We have also been exploring backpacking and are planning a few trips for the summer (Tetons and Conundrum Hot Springs->if we are lucky enough to snag permits!)

Q11: What’s the phone app you use the most?

Probably not the best use of my time/phone, but definitely my texting app. I love staying in contact with my friends and family throughout the day.

Q12: What’s a book you think everyone should read?

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone-by Lori Gottlieb

Q13: Does Colorado have good mental health care?

Honestly, no and you can read about all the reasons and statistics we feel that way in our blog Where Does Colorado Rank for Mental Health Services? But my clinic and I are doing everything we can to fix this and get more people the mental health support they need and deserve. So many people could avoid having to go to inpatient mental health treatment if we got them access to effective treatment sooner, and we're dedicated to helping Coloradans do that.

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