Perry Wellness Center founder and national behavioral health advocate Stuart Perry began his own "Journey for Life" almost 30 years ago. At the age of 21, he was witness to the suicide of his father, who suffered from depression. For years after, Stuart struggled with feelings of loss and his own depression, but was not diagnosed until a psychotic break in 1989 led him to mental health treatment and a diagnosis of major depression. After hospitalization, medication, and group therapy, Stuart began his road to mental health. This past year, he celebrated 20 full years of recovery.
Since his illness brought him to the brink, Stuart's journey has been one of advocacy -- promoting the importance of recognizing mental illness, as well as the value of treatment. Prior to establishing the Perry Wellness Center, Stuart worked with the Mental Health Association (now Mental Health America) and Middle Flint Behavioral HealthCare in a variety of roles: consumer specialist, case manager, public speaker, and advocate.
In 1994, he was one of the first consumer specialists certified in Georgia. Since that time, his accomplishments have included the following:
- Consumer Empowerment of the Year Award
- Welcome Back Lifetime Achievement Award (Eli Lilly)
- John Locke Award
- First annual GOAL -- Go On and Live Award (Georgia governor)
- Clifford W. Beers Award (Mental Health Association)
- Provider of the Year (Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network)
Stuart came to national recognition with his Journey for Life, a walk from Americus, Georgia, to Chicago, Illinois, sponsored by the Mental Health Association. The purpose of the walk was to deliver a message about mental illness recognition and treatment to the American Medical Association. Armed with thousands of petition signatures and accompanied by hundreds of other walkers at different points on his journey, Stuart spoke to mental health and civic groups at every stop along the way. With the support of such advocates as former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Habitat for Humanity co-founders Millard and Linda Fuller, Stuart became a national face for mental health recovery. The story of his journey is captured in the book, "Journey for Life."