Janity Callicut says she knew little about mental illness when she became an apartment manager for Life Help six years ago, but the job has worked out well for her.
She oversees a total of 20 units, including East Haven Apartments, Denton Center and some townhouses on U.S. 82.
She deals with residents who have mild to moderate mental illness, including some with schizophrenia, severe depression or other conditions. Her responsibilities include taking them shopping and to medical appointments as well as helping them with other day-to-day needs.
“This is by far the best job that I’ve had. I really love it,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot. ... And I’ve also learned to appreciate people for who they really are.”
Callicut, 59, was born in Sardis and graduated from North Panola High School in 1978. She attended Mississippi Valley State University for three years before entering the workforce.
Before joining Life Help, she worked at Staplcotn, Irvin Automotive Products and Delta Correctional Facility.
In about 15 years at Delta Correctional, she worked as an officer, then a disciplinary officer and then a correctional counselor.
“It was definitely an experience, but it was pretty good,” she said. “Actually I enjoyed it.”
After Delta Correctional closed, she was unemployed for about a year. She learned about the job opening at Life Help from a fellow member of her church, and “at first I didn’t take it into consideration,” she said. “But then maybe a couple of months later, she came back, and then I just went on and talked to the lady about the job.”
She said her first few days on the job were a challenge, but “with the training and then the one-on-one conversations with each individual, I got to know them, and then they got to know me, and now we’ve developed that rapport.”
She lives on site at East Haven Apartments on Browning Road. She works from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 1 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and is on call on weekends.
Sometimes she will receive after-hours phone calls from people who need medical attention, so she’ll make sure their needs are met. Occasionally they’ll call about other issues, too.
“Some just call in the middle of the night and just say, ‘I can’t sleep, and I want to talk.’ So I’m like, ‘OK, well, now I can’t sleep either, so let’s talk,” she said, laughing.
Because the mental health field is constantly changing, she has regularly gone through training to stay up to date. In general, her goal is to make sure that everyone is treated equally.
“I try to instill in them that even though they do have the mental illness, they’re still human,” she said. “They’re just like I am. I have issues; they have issues. They take medication; I take medication. So we’re all just in this together.”
For 22 years, Callicut has attended Providence Missionary Baptist Church, where she is president of the adult choir and active in Sunday school, Bible study and the drama club, in addition to helping with other tasks as needed. She was honored as the church’s Woman of the Year in 2018.
Others at Providence know about her schedule, which requires her to be late for Thursday night Bible study. But she makes other adjustments, including taking a short lunch break to leave work early for choir rehearsal.
She first visited Providence at the invitation of a co-worker at Irvin. She said the members welcomed her with open arms, and the place became a home away from home for her. She also has high praise for its pastor, the Rev. Jessie Payne.
“He preaches from the Bible, but then he also preaches from the heart,” she said. “He gives us examples of how things used to be in his life, and there’s nobody that God can’t change.”
Callicut has a 28-year-old son, Ira, who lives in Indianapolis, and a 35-year-old daughter, LaConya, who lives in Greenwood. She has two grandchildren in Greenwood and one in Indianapolis.
In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, going out to eat, attending concerts and spending time with the grandchildren. She plans to retire in the next three or four years and might move to Indianapolis then. As for long-term goals, she said she wants to “be able to just enjoy life.”
•Contact David Monroe at 581-7236 or firstname.lastname@example.org.