Drowning happens fast. 2 minutes in 2 inches of water. It is a leading cause of unintentional death globally. Stress on the UNintentional. Horrifically, that is only part of the picture. A large part of the picture, but only a part nonetheless, because drowning can be intentional, and we need to be aware of the intentional as well as the unintentional when we develop prevention strategies and legislation.
Intentional drowning occurs in many ways. Suicide. Murder. Intentional Neglect.
Intentional drowning occurs in every country. In parts of the U.S. they have found a positive link between children in abused home situations and death by drowning. In India there are some areas where after the birth of a female they are drowned in milk, saying ‘they were fed milk’. I’ve also learned of areas where they leave elderly or disabled by the shore where they eventually drown, to weak to move themselves from danger.
There are few organizations that are doing research about intentional drowning, I know only of the Lifesaving Foundation in Ireland which has taken on the issue of suicide by drowning.
Why should we care about intentional drowning?
Reporting: The vast majority of drownings are unintentional and the victim is deeply and truly mourned, but drowning is not well understood by most of the world. Fear of prosecution keeps many from reporting the unintentional drowning deaths in many parts of the world, which leads to under-reporting of the true toll of drowning, which limits our ability to put drowning on the global stage as a true epidemic.
Legal: Prosecutors and law enforcement officials in many areas may not understand drowning well enough to be able to differentiate between ‘intentional’ and ‘unintentional’, resulting in harassing genuinely distraught parents, or allowing the few guilty to go unpunished. Having a better understanding of the circumstances that can surround an intentional drowning is critical in ensuring that the family members of unintentional drowning victims get the support and help they need, and that those who intentionally contribute to the death of another by drowning, especially a child, face appropriate charges.
Unintended Harm: When we are successful in raising the profile of drowning, a fast and quiet killer, we have a strong moral imperative to be aware that some may take that information and use it to do harm, rather than good. Anytime a public health campaign is unveiled, you must look for unintended consequences, such as a spike in suspicious or clearly intentional drowning deaths.
This was not the easiest blog to write, but it’s been bothering me for a while and I think the issue needs to be discussed. Even within the field of drowning prevention we are concerned about offending those who have lost a child or loved one by even implying some drowning deaths are intentional. We understand more than most the speed and silence with which drowning can take someone, so we respect and honor that loss, but our continued silence may cause harm. As I tell my own children, you must be responsible for your own actions. For me that means ensuring that my work to raise awareness about drowning does not increase intentional drowning unintentionally.
Concerned about intentional drowning? Click here to Tweet ‘@RebeccaSaveKids says we need to stop intentional drowning too. http://bit.ly/12L5EVK #stopdrowning’