A Publication of WTVP

Be healthy, be happy, be kind

by Mike Bailey |
Winter sunrise photo

Welcome to the first issue of 2023, in which we at Peoria Magazine turn the page on a new year and a fresh attitude toward a recurring January theme: Health & Wellness. This year, our emphasis is on body and mind, especially the latter, which may finally be getting its due.

It has always seemed odd to me that anyone would separate the two. Indeed, volumes of research show that regular exercise and a responsible diet significantly enhance the odds of health in body, mind and spirit. Meanwhile, it stands to reason that if our brains are sick, the rest of us can’t be far behind. Oz is up there, after all, pulling the levers.

Yet mental health has long seemed to play second fiddle with many medical providers, politicians, even the public at large — jails have become our de facto mental institutions — certainly for attention and funding, always indicative of societal priorities. Perhaps it was the stigma attached, as if such setbacks are a choice or personal failure rather than an illness to be taken seriously.

I trust that most of us have had an experience with a struggling friend, family member or work colleague who needed more than a reassuring pep talk.Sadly, sometimes you don’t even see it coming. Other times, it’s the sudden, inexplicable behavior or withdrawal, the shared plans disrupted, the holiday gatherings turned tense, the relationship altered with someone you’ve known forever but no longer recognize. Ever wanted to grab that person by the shoulders and yell, “Snap out of it!”? If only it were that simple.

My lovely wife would gladly confide that her husband is not to be confused with Mr. Sensitive, but with maturity and hopefully wisdom come the realization that mental illness is treatable, often manageable, certainly deserving of empathy, attention and help. Many who contend with it still enjoy productive, giving lives. 

Now we see mental health taking center stage, though evidently it took a global pandemic and skyrocketing rates of depression and anxiety, homelessness and suicide, to begin opening eyes to the reality that such challenges can afflict anyone at any time, ourselves included.

Locally, UnityPoint Health is embarking upon a major initiative on the juvenile mental health front with its Young Minds Center, our cover story. The number leaping off that page is the 2,600 central Illinois children and families who courageously sought treatment but were turned away the last five years due to lack of resources and facilities. Meanwhile, OSF HealthCare has plans to build Illinois’ largest adult psychiatric hospital outside Chicago. Health care is a business, but both projects are a public service. It’s very positive, potentially lifesaving news for central Illinois.

It has been said that the Midwest — so-called “flyover country” — is always last in line for “the latest thing,” but once upon a time, Peoria was way ahead of the curve. In this issue, we tell the story of Dr. George Zeller, the reformer who took the Illinois Asylum for the Incurable Insane in Bartonville and turned it into Peoria State Hospital on the conviction that care should be compassionate and could be effective. He must have seemed a saint.

Also, no one tells a better story than Phil Luciano, as he does with the heartbreaking tale of Rhoda Derry. We share the progress of Dr. Kiran Velpula and fellow researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria as they work on treatments for various cancers, including glioblastoma.

We may have miles to go, but we have come a very long way.

It’s resolution time, so here’s ours for 2023 and beyond:

Be healthy. Be happy. Be kind. Happy New Year, everybody.

Mike Bailey

Mike Bailey

is editor in chief of Peoria Magazine [email protected]