Photo Courtesy of Sherry Mills Photo Courtesy of Sherry Mills

The pandemic has made mental health care a little more difficult during the pandemic. That’s why this community mental health worker has gone the extra mile for others. 

JACKSON, Mich.—“Smiling behind a mask is not as comforting or welcoming to an individual seeking support and empathy,” said Sherry Mills. She’s a peer support specialist at Lifeways Community Mental Health in Jackson. Smiling at those who need help the most isn’t the only obstacle COVID-19 has created.

“A lot of in-person support groups and meetings were canceled or discontinued,” she told The ‘Gander. “It has been harder to help with resources for housing due to lack of housing available and less space in shelters because of social distancing.”

Mills herself has walked the path of recovery from mental illness and works to help others throughout their journeys. She says that there have been some positives that have come from the pandemic, including that people have been more willing to go the extra mile for others. 

“I believe people have been more eager to assist the elderly and high-risk people that they come in contact with,” she said. “People have been finding new ways to connect aside from in person. Paying it forward just to brighten a person’s day.”

Mills also says she feels encouraged by the emergence of vaccines, both for her safety and for the safety of others. 

“Since having the vaccine, I feel more comfortable working alongside co-workers and out in the community,” she said. “(I feel) less fearful of becoming infected and or spreading COVID. I am looking forward to children being back in school and less depression from isolation.”

The pandemic has presented severe changes to our lives, oftentimes adding a lever of stress many aren’t used to. Some public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the chances of spreading the virus, but that leaves many feeling isolated. 

Learning to cope with the stress and seeking out resources to support your mental health is important, according to the Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention. That’s where organizations like Lifeways and people like Mills come in.

“It is very important to take care of your mental health,” she said, “And there is more need for mental health care during the pandemic because of isolation, stress, and worry of becoming infected, losing loved ones and jobs, and schools shutting down.” 

When that happens, Mills and her team are there to go the extra mile.