Up Close & Personal with Alan K. Stout

Allison LaRussa is a peer specialist with Peerstar LLC, a peer support services agency in Scranton. She is also an artist, writer, singer and mental health advocate. On Friday, July 8, she will host a This Is Your Journey self-help event at Adezzo in Scranton. LaRussa, 29, is a native of Scranton and is a graduate of Dunmore High School. She is also a graduate of Keystone College and studied at The Art Institute in New York City. She received a bachelor’s degree in studio arts from Marywood University. She lives in Dunmore.
Meet Allison LaRussa …

Can you tell us a little about your work at Peerstar?
I work with people that have a diagnosis of mental health and you help them work on their goals, specifically goals pertaining to their diagnosis.

What first inspired you to get into that line of work?
I had a few years with depression and social anxiety, so I really wanted to help people be able to relate to other people and help them with their journey.

You’re also an advocate for people with mental health issues, so you obviously go above and beyond just putting in your time at work. Can you tell us a little about your advocacy work?
I had an event about two months ago at Adezzo in Scranton. It was a mental health awareness night. It was an open-mic night where people came and told a little about their story, or read some poetry or played some music. It let people tap into their journey and their story. I also had some information on some resources and a journal for people to write down their thoughts. People came up to me afterwards, and people were mingling with each other and said, “Wow. I can’t believe someone else has gone through that or also felt that way.” People were able to support each other and relate to each other.

Will the event that you’re hosting on July 8 at Adezzo be similar?
I’m adding an art therapy component. I’m going to bring supplies for people to make collages of self-affirming quotes, to help with their self-esteem. It’s important for people to feel that they are accepted.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to go to art shows. I’m in a band. And I do art.

Let’s talk about the band. You recently joined the group Doghouse Charlie & The Buck Knife as co-lead vocalist. Is it an original project or a cover project?
It’s a little bit of both. I just joined a few weeks ago. They’ve been playing for a long time and I just jumped on board. It’s a combo of experimental folk and blues.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
The Growlers, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Etta James.

Do you have any hobbies?
I like to go to thrift shops and collect old books. I like old frames and things like that.

All-time favorite movie?
Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.

Favorite book or author?
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

Favorite city?
New York. I used to live there, and I feel like you can be yourself there. It’s very free and creative.

Favorite vacation spot?
I like to hike a lot in different places and explore new places. Most recently, I was at Dingmans Falls.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The art and music community is so supportive, and I feel like it’s really growing. There are always things to do, and there is always an outpouring of support.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I feel I’m a pretty open book. Even though I’m shy, I still feel like I can express myself to people and let people in.

You have quite a few tattoos, so that is obviously a big part of your life. How many do you have?
Probably more than 20. They kind of blend into each other at this point. I think a lot of people are nervous or afraid to express themselves, but I like that about myself; I can express myself through tattoos or clothing. I think it’s important to let people know who you are, and I like being a leader in that sense.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
When I went for training for the job I currently have, I was kind of in a depression, and it really put a lot on the light on the whole field of helping people. It was really a game changer for me in my life. It was very positive.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at
alankstout@comcast.net.