LOCKDOWN LOSSES: SA BUSINESS IN TURMOIL
Broke and alone: Lockdown taking toll on breadwinner's mental health
He was able to do everything for his parents and his sister, before the Covid-19 lockdown saw his work hours cut by half — along with his salary. On top of this, the ever-growing number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has taken a further toll on his mental health.
This is the story of an IT support engineer who is trying to keep calm and adjust to the pandemic.
Lehlohonolo*, 27, struggles with anxiety and depression. He was clinically diagnosed in 2018 and has been on medication.
He says the lockdown has affected his finances — he's now only earning half of what he used to get before the pandemic.
“I work by myself in one province, compared to my other colleagues in other provinces, where they have partners that can relieve them from work,” he told TimesLIVE.
“What’s even more frustrating is that I consult for hospitals, so I always have to be extra cautious.
“With my job title, it is difficult to even adhere to the new given working hours because I'm more of a ‘standby’ — now more than ever.”
The last time he had to consult a therapist for his mental health was when he moved from Cape Town in 2018 to start a new job in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. Now the stress of being alone during the lockdown has led to depression and exhaustion.
Apart from buying food and paying for my own bills, I have to do the same for back home.
“My friends and close family, we check up on each other and I appreciate that. It does not help that I stay by myself and have no-one to frequently confide in or just have a normal conversation with.”
Financially, Lehlohonolo* has been forced to ask for payment holidays for his life and car insurance. He's now living off savings that he put away for family emergencies and “rainy days”.
“I’m surviving right now. What I noticed is that my salary covers my basic monthly expenses and just leaves me dry.
“What’s more difficult is that I send money home since now no-one is working. My mom has been unemployed for over two years and my dad sends money but not [consistently], meaning we cannot rely on him financially. Apart from buying food and paying for my own bills, I have to do the same for back home.”
He says more than anything right now, his mom and sister, who is in varsity, are his two priorities. Not being able to do more for them during the lockdown breaks his heart.
“Seeing them struggle breaks me when I know I could do more, give more, buy more. Ever since lockdown and the salary cut, I had to pay off outstanding instalments on a few things [at] home with my savings.
“I haven’t been able to pay my younger sister’s student accommodation rent and I am struggling to get her a laptop since now they are doing e-learning.”
He says it’s going to take a while to recover from the financial strain.
“Looking at the near future, I see a lot of downgrading and trying to pay back or save up in order to go back to how things were. Not sure if things will ever go back to 'normal'.”
* Not his real name.