Welcome to PerryvilleAs we previewed a couple of weeks ago, one of Perry Wellness Center's biggest events of the year takes place tonight, December 18, from 5 - 7 p.m. Our annual Christmas open house, Cheer Up the Blues, continues a tradition of approximately two decades, in which Stuart Perry and friends have marked the season with both holiday cheer and a serious message about depression, which often worsens during the holidays.

When Stuart began the tradition, he stood in a Santa suit on a busy Americus corner where his family owned a service station and store. In the days before Christmas, he offered hot cocoa, fruit, and plenty of "ho-ho-ho"-ing. But he also shared information on depression and began his role of educating the public about mental illness.

With his jolly red suit and equally jolly demeanor, Stuart did not appear to have faced the grim realities of depression in his own life, but he had. His own story of recovery became a testament to the healing power of treatment and support. Stuart managed both to  "normalize" depression by giving it a face and voice, and to raise awareness of its serious impact on individuals, families, and the larger community.

We encourage local readers to come out tonight and be a part of this legacy. Come celebrate the season and learn just a little more about mental illness in the process. At a center dedicated to dealing with mental illness, you'll see more smiles than you might imagine. And for the peers and staff of Perry Wellness Center, that is our message of the season: Mental illness is treatable. Recovery IS possible.

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