By Sameer Naik
Johannesburg – It isn’t easy for Khumbulani Mazibuko to open up about the dark and hopeless place he finds himself in.
A few months ago, the 28-year-old financial advisor was ready to take his own life having lost his job during the lockdown.
Mazibuko was unable to pay any of his bills, and had also exhausted all of his savings.
The only way he saw out, was to take his own life.
“I was stressed out with people calling me for their money on accounts that I had owed,” says Mazibuko. “I could not make ends meet as I exhausted all my savings and basically had zero rands to my name.
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“I started to have panic attacks and I couldn’t sleep. I drank and smoked weed in the evenings. I would wake up in the middle of the night and just sit and think of what to do. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this.”
Aside from the financial impact that he faced, Mazibuko’s #mentalhealth had also steadily deteriorated during the lockdown .
“I was stressed with everyone dying around me and people losing their jobs. Being indoors all the time and not knowing how to start searching for jobs and all that didn’t inspire any hope either and so my #mentalhealth deteriorated.
“I started talking to myself and found myself in a very dark place. I’d watch TV but I couldn’t tell what was going on. Each time I couldn’t sleep I’d wake up and just sit in the dark and cry. In the mornings I would wake up, act strong, put on a brave face for everyone and pretend everything is okay.
“#Mentalhealth is very delicate because one minute you are happy and laughing and as soon as everyone goes, you are all sad.”
Mazibuko was then forced to move back in with his mother.
“I got paid from March till June 2020 and from there I started missing payments. I could not afford rent, food, petrol and bills, you name it. I started borrowing and asking for help from my family, and I eventually had to get rid of my car.
“Moving back home was not easy. My mom, she gladly received me back and she basically supported me, but what hurts is that when you become a child again you start asking for money, or for her car and often that becomes challenging, it was a difficult thing to do.”
When things become too overwhelming for him, Mazibuko began planning his #suicide.
“The plan was to either drive under a truck or take a whole lot of pills in the house and go to sleep. I never imagined being in this place mentally where I was ready to end it all, but the lockdown had taken away everything that I worked so hard for and I just felt like there was no other option.”
He says he was eventually talked out of it by a friend on #Facebook as well his brother when he decided to open up to them on what had been going on in his life.
“I was talking to someone on Facebook and they talked me out of it and told me to be patient, and that I’ll find another job. I also had the courage to open up to my brother and tell him everything. He checked on me every day and gave me some money to search for jobs and I eventually started to feel better.”
While Mazibuko is still unemployed, he says is doing his best to remain optimistic, despite it becoming increasingly challenging to do so during such a difficult time.
Thousands of South Africans have found themselves in a similar position to Mazibuko over the last year.
While thousands have contemplated #suicide due to the devastating impacts of the #Covid-19 #pandemic, some have gone through with it, with South Africa’s #suicide rate at an all time high since the country went into lockdown.
And now with the country experiencing a devastating third wave, the #mentalhealth of South Africans continues to worsen.
Sadag says is has been inundated with thousands of calls each day from depressed and anxious South Africans seeking help.
“Sadag has been tracking our call volumes very closely, especially before the #Covid-19 lockdown and during,” said Kayla Phillips, press liaison for Sadag.
“Our calls were averaging about 600 calls per day before lockdown in March 2020, and since the first lockdown our call volumes have literally doubled and growing.”
She said Sadag now receives over 1 400 calls per day, excluding the SMSes, emails, WhatsApp chats or #socialmedia requests.
“We are training more volunteers to help man the increasing calls on our helplines. Since the start of 2021, we are receiving more calls based on trauma, loss, grief, depression and #suicide. Sadag received over 500 000 calls since the start of the lockdown.
“Many of the calls were from people suffering from #anxiety about their #finances, job losses and the wellbeing of their #children.”
Phillips said they have also received over 100 000 calls on the #suicidehotline since March last year.
The #pandemic has also taken away the ability for South Africans to mourn their loved ones.
“Covid-19 has definitely changed the way we mourn – we are used to being able to pay our respects in person – visiting families, attending funerals, organising memorial services, etc.
“People can’t even see their loved ones in hospitals, they aren’t able to say goodbye, people can’t attend funerals or visit families – so people find it harder to process the grief and harder for those who have experienced the loss to get comfort from others.
“Many people may feel like it isn’t real, they don’t know how to grieve in this new limbo and it feels like it is all on hold.”
With a drastic increase in calls recently, the non-profit organisation has also been under severe pressure.
They recently shared a request calling out for a donation to upgrade the existing equipment to maintain power during loadshedding.
The University of Johannesburg’s Electrical Engineering Department agreed to assist the non profit organisation and donated equipment that would allow Sadag to manage the high volume of calls.
“It is critical that our National Helplines are fully operational 24 hours a day specifically during loadshedding and power cuts,” said Zane Wilson, founder of Sadag.
“Through our own volunteers, we got an introduction to the UJ Electrical Engineering Department, and very quickly their intention to assist us, escalated into the entire project being donated by the faculty to make sure we would pick up all our calls and help people countrywide.”