The last two years have been tough for Ernest Burés, but so was his childhood. “I saw a lot of violence at home, and the police came many times. I was never a direct victim, but I suffered anyway,” he says. When he was 13 his parents divorced and he stayed with his father. He does not understand how during his parents’ divorce and with the problems at home, that social services never suggested he have a psychological check-up.
As a teenager he hardly ever went out and it was not until university that he realised that he had not had a childhood. After graduating with a politics degree in 2019, he found summer work in Barcelona, but when his contract expired he had to return home. “My dad had paid for my student flat, but he never liked the degree I chose, he undervalued it,” he says.
His relationship with his father was not going well and he felt something was wrong with him. “I found it hard to leave the house. I wasn’t well and spent my days in bed.” Then he split up with his partner after explaining that he’d had ideas about self-harming and suicide. Between November 2019 and February 2020 things got really bad.
He eventually found work, but three weeks later the pandemic broke out. He spent the lockdown at a friend’s house, which had a garden. It was not a bad experience, on the contrary, it gave him the impetus to decide to strike out on his own. After a brief stay with his mother, with whom he has a good relationship, in the summer he decided to look for a flat share. The problem was, and still is, getting to the end of the month.
“I work for the Catalan government but in reality I’m employed by a temp agency. The people around me are civil servants. At first I was happy, but then I saw how much leass I earn than my workmates,” he says.
He works thirty-seven hours a week, even though his contract says he is part-time, and earns a thousand euros. “I do the same as my workmates, but I earn much less. I have to be careful with my expenses because I’m forced to live day to day. Now I have to find a private psychologist and will have to pay for it,” he says.
At the end of last year, he began suffering from anxiety again, because he did not know whether his contract would be renewed. “I saw that I was doing everything right: working full time, applying myself, avoiding debts... but my anxiety got worse. At the time of the interview, Ernest had not yet been diagnosed, but he believes he is suffering from an anxiety disorder. “Luckily my friends made me see that I needed to go to a psychologist,” he adds. Yet he is also critical that there are so few resources. “It shouldn’t be the case that I send a message to the health service asking for an appointment with a psychologist because I’ve had suicidal thoughts and then I have to wait three months. If I hadn’t improved in those three months, I don’t know what would have happened.
feature mental health
Suffering over basic things
For Ernest, becoming independent and making his own way in life is a source of real pride for him. However, it also brings with it a lot of anxiety. “There have been some days when I have literally checked my bank account more than ten times to see if I’d been paid yet. I’ve never been in the red but I’m always worried about whether I will be able to afford the rent or food. To think that I work full time and have to suffer over the most basic things just seems crazy to me. After a whole year of working I haven’t been able to save even a thousand euros. I was planning to do a Master’s degree but at the moment I can’t even afford to enrol on the course.”