Suicidal from the stress of being unemployed

| Sfiso Nkala
The unemployment line at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC. Photo by Keturah Stickann under CC (by-nc-nd 2.0).

I am Sfiso Nkala. I am 40 years old and I live in Stanger in Kwazulu-Natal. I have been unemployed since 2008. As I write this I am at home thinking about how I will get to town to apply for the job I saw advertised in the newspaper. I know that once I ask someone to lend me money for transport then I have to pay it back.

I became unemployed shortly after I had bought myself a site and built a house. This took place when I was in the process of getting married with my fiancé. I had borrowed some money to build my house from the bank but at least it was a small amount. Things changed fast for me as I got hit by the job losses during the economic downturn. My love life with my fiancé took a downturn too and broke completely.

It was extremely stressful as I had no source of income. I thought that I had lost everything. I could not bear the fact that my neighbours would gossip about the fact that I was now unemployed and had lost my fiancé. I had strong thoughts of committing suicide to relieve the stress and the weight off my shoulders. I had enough opportunity to do it as I was alone most of the time but when I had to do it, I never found the strength and my attempts failed dismally.

At one point my sister became ill with TB for the second time in two years. She was too weak to work, but she was the bread winner. I knew it was too much for her. She called me and asked, what I was doing to secure a job as she was so ill. That was a difficult question and I knew that if she died there was nothing that I could do financially.

At times I would be scared to let people notice that I am unemployed. I am an activist in my community, but that has to be put aside at times because I need to eat and contribute at home as an active member of the family.

My mom is 74 years old and gets a state pension. I am not proud or happy but the fact is she did what I think all mothers would do. She protect me and supported me during difficult times. It is hard to accept donations from my mom but, there is no other way as it helps for transport and other important personal things in my life as an adult.

When you are unemployed, you lose confidence in yourself and the respect of your kids, nephews, nieces and siblings if you cannot contribute at home. Can you imagine you are hungry and when you open the bread bin there are only two slices left and two kids in the house who have not had something to eat? You have to let the kids eat. Eating food while I know that I not contributed a cent to buying it is embarrassing to me. It feels like I have stolen that meal. Fortunately I think, my siblings understand my life as an activist to a certain point as they sometimes witness positive results of my efforts in the community.

Nkala was an organiser with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) until 2008 when he was retrenched due to TAC’s budget cuts.


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