Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
May 7, 1999

NEXT STOP ON MAN'S 1,000-MILE JOURNEY TO INCREASE DEPRESSION AWARENESS: Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression of Wesley Woods

First, clinical depression drove Stuart Perry's father to take his own life. Then, the same illness nearly claimed Perry's marriage and pushed him to the brink of suicide. But now, after successful treatment, Mr. Perry is walking 1,000 miles, from his south Georgia hometown to Chicago, to show the 18 million other Americans battling depression they can win back their lives. Mr. Perry's three-month-long walk is an effort called Journey for Life that began May 1 during Mental Health Month.

"My depression was so bad, I couldn't work, I couldn't think, I didn't even want to get out of bed," explains 40-year-old Mr. Perry. "Finally, I got the right treatment and the right medication to make me better. And one thing that also helped me get better was walking," Mr. Perry says. "Now, I've decided to go walking again. This time I'm telling other people with depression that there's hope and they can get better, too."

Mr. Perry will be bringing his powerful story to Atlanta on May 13 and 14, during the first leg of Journey for Life. Starting in Americus with the strong support of fellow Americus residents Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Mr. Perry is walking to the headquarters of the American Medical Association, where he'll present petitions signed by people he meets on his journey, urging doctors to screen their patients for depression. At every stop along the way, Mr. Perry and local mental health groups will conduct free depression education programs that include confidential depression screenings.

In Atlanta, screenings and education will take place Thursday, May 13, at Wesley Woods in the Assembly Room of the Wesley Woods Towers, 1825 Clifton Rd., N.E., Atlanta.

LECTURES begin at 10 a.m. by Mr. Perry, Donald Prichard, a successfully treated patient from the Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression based at Wesley Woods, and Rudy Hayes, who served on President Jimmy Carter's Peanut Brigade and who is an ardent mental health advocate.

FREE DEPRESSION SCREENINGS for older adults will be available after the lectures from 11 a.m.-Noon. Call 404/ 728-4981 for information.

The Atlanta event is sponsored by the Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression of Wesley Woods.

"Depression is not something you can just snap out of," Mr. Perry says. "It's an illness, and no one can 'tough it out' on his own. When I was playing college football, I was up against some of the toughest guys on the field. But nothing hit me as hard as clinical depression -- it really knocked me off my feet."

Persons wishing to walk with Mr. Perry for any distance through Atlanta should contact Rudy Hayes, Journey for Life, 912/ 931-2904.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will welcome Mr. Perry on May 14 at The Carter Center during the Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum.

"Such a personal and positive demonstration of recovery from depression cannot help but affect those people who struggle with mental illness and their familiesproviding them the hope that they, too, can overcome this illness," says Mrs. Carter, long-time champion of mental health causes and chair of the Mental Health Task Force at The Carter Center. "The public attention that the walk will generate will also help in the constant struggle to better inform people about mental illness and the effective treatments."

Journey for Life will visit dozens of communities across Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, educating people about depression, an illness that continues to be shrouded by stigma and misinformation. Mr. Perry will also help raise awareness of the dire need for physicians to begin screening their patients for clinical depression.

Some common symptoms of clinical depression include social withdrawal, anxiety, irritability, changes in sleep and appetite, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and/or thoughts of death or suicide. Treatments may include antidepressant medication, psychotherapy (talk therapy), or a combination of both, among other options.

"With the right treatment and the support of my wonderful family, I finally got my life back," Mr. Perry says. "And this journey gives me the chance to reach out to the millions suffering from depression and say, 'heygo see your doctor; treatment that works is out there and you can get better.'"

Journey for Life is sponsored by the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) and cosponsored by the National Mental Health Association of Georgia and local NMHA affiliates in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. This effort is made possible through private and corporate sponsors, including an unrestricted educational grant from Eli Lilly and Company. The Journey is also supported by various national and local organizations with a commitment to mental health.

To obtain a daily update on Stuart Perry's progress as he travels across America's heartland, the public can visit <>. To locate a site that offers free, confidential depression screenings in your area year-round, call 1-800-573-4433.

Correspondence and pledges may be mailed to Journey for Life, P.O. Drawer 6230, Americus, GA 31709.


(Editor's Note: Stuart Perry and Emory depression experts at Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression of Wesley Woods are available for interviews by calling the contacts, above.)

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

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