Perry Wellness Center Builds on Legacy of Mental Health Advocacy:
Stuart Perry Plans for Greater Outreach in New Year
Perry Wellness Center, now located on its large campus in Americus’ historic district, has come a long way in the years since its first incarnation as the Tom Perry Peer Center on the Plains Highway. Since that time, public awareness of depression and other mental illnesses, as well as substance abuse, has increased dramatically.
As 2012 draws to an end, Perry Wellness Center founder Stuart Perry is looking ahead to 2013, with plans for further expansion. “Now that Georgia is reducing the number of state mental health providers and the awareness of mental illness needs in Georgia increases, local recovery centers are being challenged to increase their services for a growing population,” Perry explains. “Perry Wellness Center has plans to further expand our classroom and market space. We plan a great 2013.” The increased space will allow for expansion in enrollment as well, as waiting lists for services need to reduced, if not eliminated entirely.
With ambitious plans for the future of the center in the works, it seems a fitting time to take a look back at the last few years of Stuart Perry’s own story, which first received public notice with his 1999 “Journey for Life.” Between May and August, Perry walked 1000 miles, from Americus to Chicago, with the purpose of increasing public awareness of depression. Having suffered from its disabling effects himself, Perry was aware of the need for improved mental health screenings. Gathering signatures along the way, he arrived at the American Medical Association offices in Chicago with a petition calling for increased depression screenings.
Perry reflects on those days thoughtfully. “I was not seeking notoriety for my efforts for mental illness,” he recalls. “I was only trying to show that recovery from depression was possible. It was a learning experience for us all. The trip caused many cities to realize their need to provide additional mental health counseling and solutions.”
Numerous accolades followed his Journey for Life experience. Perhaps the top honor came when Perry received the Clifford Beers Award, the highest honor given by Mental Health America (then the National Mental Health Association). Named for an individual who had also suffered from clinical depression and vowed “to do something to help the cause of mental health,” the award recognized the incredible comeback Perry had made, as well as his own contributions to the mental health advocacy movement.
A visitor walking through the entrance lobby of Perry Wellness Center is struck by the numerous historical pictures, news articles and awards that document the past and current progress of the recovery program. A few of the more notable documents: Accreditation of the Person-Centered Excellence Award, 1999 Journey for Life Consumer Empowerment of the Year award, a letter from former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a top national mental health advocate and supporter of the center, a 2009 Peer Support Program of the Year Award , a citation by the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network – Celebrating 20 Years of Recovery, letters from various dignitaries, including former Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon; proclamations and citations from such entities as the Clayton County, Georgia Commission; the Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio; Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, and a special Congressional citation by U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop. Also on the lobby walls hang a display presentation of athletic shoes by Coach Bobby Bowden from the FSU Sugar Bowl, the Governor’s Work Place Learning Place Pioneer Award, and the Illinois Psychiatric Society’s John Cooke Award.
A walk through Perry’s own office reveals the overflow of awards and citations that could not be contained on the lobby walls. They include citations from the Buena Vista Lions Club, the Indiana Mental Health Association, and the National Mental Health Association. Certificates and plaques represent various recognitions, including the Norman Skole Award, acknowledgement of Perry’s work by the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards and the River Woods Mental Health Association, a “Light the Way” citation from N.A.M.I. Texas, and a certificate of appreciation for serving as a member of the Central Florida Crisis Intervention Team.
“These citations and awards are kind and generous,” Perry notes. He sees them as a recognition of the importance of advocacy. “As I did my walk and traveled the United States as an advocate for mental health issues, I realized that these same needs were evident in Southwest Georgia. I am now part of a team on a growing campus at Perry Wellness Center. There is more to be done – we have just begun our work,” Perry concludes with a smile.
In the photo, Perry reviews plans for 2013, including a new building to provide more education, training, and support to area residents.
Nice article in the Americus Times-Recorder about our new website!
June 16, 2012
AMERICUS — Progressing faster than planned, Perry Wellness Center (PWC) of Americus, at 302 E. Furlow St., now offers an abundance of flowers, hanging baskets and unique hand crafted gifts at Rudy's Happy Patch Market. For months, printed information sheets, brochures and word of mouth have been the successful advertising methods for the non-profit organization that welcomes some 50 peer members each day to this Americus Campus.
Realizing the need for increased visual sharing of the PWC, a new website was designed and placed on-line in recent days.
"We are excited about the new markets in our area, in Georgia and the world that http://www.perrywellnesscenter.com, will touch. We continually improve our educational programs for our clients but also offer a market place that offers a full line of locally grown fruits and vegetables. I hope that people will visit us in person and on the web," said Stuart Perry, founder of Perry Wellness Center.
PWC’s mission is "To advance personal health and well-being among persons with mental illness and addictive disorders," continues to reach an increasing population in its eight-county service area.
Stuart and Pam Perry continue to associate with stakeholders in Americus and Sumter County who share their desire to help others. PWC takes mental health and substance abuse treatment to the next level by combining exercise, nutrition and behavioral medication and counseling in a social setting to restore vitality and a better quality of life.
Visit perrywellnesscenter.com and realize that you can join this group of concerned citizens as they address the unseen needs of others in the Americus community and Southwest Georgia.