"Think drowning involves screaming, gasping, and flailing? Think it’s easy to notice someone drowning? Well, you’re wrong. Drowning is a silent killer. There’s no waving or calling for help of any kind. It's not like what you see on TV. Many people would not even notice another person drowning at just 30 yards away."
The above was the opening paragraph from this article Drowning looks different than you think and, I must admit, that after years of watching simulated drownings on TV and in movies that this was my image of a person drowning. What is even more surprising is that I once pulled a motionless toddler from a pool and should have learned from that experience that drowning looked different than I expected. Alas, I just assumed the toddler's motionless behavior was an anomoly.
In a larger sense, I believe the story serves as a useful metaphor for life. I have a brother who suffers from depression and chemical dependancy and I would like to believe I can spot when he is about to suffer a relapse — but I can't. In this same way, I think many of us like to believe we can spot or will know when our friends, colleagues or loved ones are "drowning" in their personal lives — but we can't.
I don't have an answer to overcoming this problem but we might start by challenging our assumptions; asking new questions and constantly trying to see things from new and different perspectives.