Why We Need More Eyes on the Water


Why We Need More Eyes on the Water

Everyone knows what it means when an arm is raised high from the water. We recognise it as a cry for help and respond immediately. We have a similar understanding in life generally. When someone asks for help or is clearly in need, most of us do what we can to assist.

But what about those who are too swamped by the rising tide to raise their arm? How can we see them? As circumstances draw them deeper and the water laps around their face, can we recognise their need before the current sweeps them away?

According to Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s figures, almost 8000 Australian companies entered into external administration last year, and in the past three months alone the Australian Financial Security Authority tells us that almost 1000 individuals have been declared bankrupt due to business debt.

Self-employment is not for the faint hearted, but the daily challenges (that extend well beyond those of a financial nature) will often take their toll on even the toughest among us. We can all be forgiven for assuming people will ask for help if they need it, but what if they can’t? What if they’re so focused on staying afloat that they don’t see the rapids ahead?

A little while back, I saw a video clip of a lifeguard watching over an extremely crowded public pool. To the untrained eye, it was business as usual, but the lifeguard leapt from her post to rescue a young boy who had quietly slipped from his raft. Even if the child had raised his hand, it may not have been seen amidst the commotion, and the only reason he was plucked to safety was because someone was watching the signs and was prepared to dive in rather than rely on protocol.

The most recent Lifeline statistics report an average of eight deaths per day in Australia due to suicide, and for every death reported, an estimated 30 people will attempt to end their lives. That’s an alarming number of people in crisis.

While society is becoming more informed about the daily struggle caused by depression and anxiety, there are many types of trauma that weigh heavily on those entering the water. Family upheaval, grief, loss, health issues, commitments and financial burden are only some of life’s weights. Each will present differently, and some will not present at all. As we go about our day, those around us may stride toward the water; they might look prepared and even help others negotiate the shoreline.

We all think they can swim. They swam yesterday. They’ve been swimming for years …

Take a chance.

Perhaps fear prevents us from speaking up – maybe we’ll be wrong and look stupid for asking a personal question. But if we think about what’s at stake for the other person, isn’t it worth the risk? A brief, heartfelt enquiry might be all it takes to help someone raise their hand.

Who can help?

  • Lifeline’s Crisis Support Line 13 11 14 operates 24 hours or their after-hours Crisis Support Chat Service can be contacted between 7.00 pm and 4.00 am.
  • The National Debt Hotline 1800 007 007 operates between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm in most states or visit the ASIC Financial Counselling page for other helpful links.

We need more eyes on the water; looking for subtleties and rescuing those whose arms are heavy. Watch the water today. Make the most of the moments when you’re standing safely in the shallows. Check in with those swimming nearby and be prepared to help them find a place where they can stand.

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