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Don Ritchie: The man who saved 160 people from suicide

Meet the man who saved 160 people -- that is not even the real number as per his family but almost 500 people -- from suicide, Don Ritchie. No, he’s not some mental health professional nor a doctor, he is just an ordinary person who saved hundreds of people in his lifetime.

Who is Don Ritchie?

Don Ritchie or also known as Donald Taylor Ritchie was an Australian who successfully prevented many suicide attempts. Specifically, he rescued over 160 people from jumping off a cliff called The Gap in Sydney. His heroic action led him to be recognized by the Australian Government earning an award of the Order of Australia (OAM) which is given to the said country’s people for their achievement or service.

Before this award, he first served the country entering the Royal Australian Navy back in 1939 as a seaman boarding on HMAS Hobart. This happened in the middle of World War II. When the Japanese Imperial Forces surrendered, he came back as a life insurance salesman.

The Miraculous Intervention

On the record, he rescued about 160 people from attempted suicide as of 2009. But his family said that the real number is close to 500, which is never confirmed. Despite this, Ritchie had been known to be a lifesaver.

Ritchie lived near The Gap so he would see when someone was nearby. Whenever he sees someone on the cliff with obvious distress behaviors, Ritchie would leave his home, cross the road, and invite them in for a talk. In most cases, he would begin the conversation with “Can I help you in some way?” These words would lead to another and another until he would invite them back to his home for a cup of tea and to continue the conversation.

There are some people that would come back every now and then to extend their gratitude as a payback for his help. Ritchie explained his side saying that “You cannot just sit there and watch them.”

It is estimated that about 50 people choose to end their lives at The Gap annually.

Awards & Achievements

Back in 2006, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia or OAM with the official citation stating for his “service to the community through programs to prevent suicide.” Ritchie and his wife, Moya Ritchie, were also given the award “Citizens of the Year” in 2010 by Woollahra Council, the local government in the east suburbs of New South Wales, Australia. Aside from this, he also received the “Local Hero Award” by the National Australia Day Council in 2011 stating that “His kind words and invitations into his home in times of trouble have made an enormous difference… With such simple actions, Don has saved an extraordinary number of lives.”

What can we learn from Don Ritchie?

Don Ritchie conducted an interview with R U OK? And he said on the recorded video that “Over the years, whether it’s a 160 or 260 [people] or somebody talking about 400 the other night, I have spoken to many, many of them just that way, of saying “What are you doing over there? Please, come and talk to me. Come over and have a cup of tea. Come and have a beer,” or something like that. To get them away from their mind, away from going over [the cliff] while I’m there.

Ritchie said those phrases for almost 50 years. Though he did not manage to save everyone, Ritchie did his best with every individual person bound to suicide. But after refusing his help, he accepted that there was nothing more left doing.

What can we learn from Don Ritchie?

One conversation can change a life.

Often, when our minds get clouded with problems, we see no reason to continue breathing. We are not in the right mental state to think about right and wrong, good or bad, or in simpler terms, morality. And when everything seems to be so heavy, we ought to break down. We think that dying is the only solution to get a way out.

In this progressive world and in our busy lives, we tend to forget about the people we care the most or have significant places in our hearts because we are busy with ourselves. That we cannot even go to dinner with them or check them out through messaging.

It can be reflected that by simply checking up on your family and friends may ease them and help them go through their problems. We might not see through their feelings but a little pat in the back has the power to lessen their baggage.

Every individual is a human being and every human being is a person with feelings and emotions. For some people, a small act of kindness might mean the world to them. And who knows? You might change their lives forever. If you keep on doing good deeds like sending a simple text, giving a smile, or offering help, you are already making a difference to the world.


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