Yesterday several of our youth went to Great Waves Water Park. We spent most of our time in the wave pool, enjoying the power of the water as it pushed us about in inner tubes.
The pool was crowded and the lifeguards had their hands full. There were guards surrounding the pool as well as two or three assigned to walk through it, diligently looking out for swimmers who were having difficulty staying afloat.
It’s hard work to be a lifeguard. To my eyes, most everyone was flailing about, sinking underneath the water before popping up again, and screaming with fear or delight. They all looked like they could be in danger of drowning.
And yet, in the aftermath of several tragic drownings in our area already this summer, I have heard news reports remind viewers that drowning does not always look like drowning. In fact, when someone is seriously having trouble, they are often silent because it takes too much air to cry for help. Rather than moving around, they are often still with their hands spread at their sides – the best position to remain afloat.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when someone is drowning…and that is true of emotional drowning as well. Not everyone who is feeling overwhelmed by anxiety will call for help. Not everyone who is inundated with stress will let us know. Not everyone who is overcome with feelings of depression will appear depressed.
We are like lifeguards: diligently listening, looking, and reaching out when necessary. It is a hard job. Chances are we’ll easily spot the people who are struggling with the obvious signs of mental distress. It is more difficult to inquire about the disturbing Facebook post, the subtle change in behavior, or the quiet sadness.
Sometimes the people who are in the most distress are the most silent. If you are a silent sufferer, know that help is available. If you are concerned about someone but aren’t exactly sure, reach out anyway. Drowning does not always look like drowning.