Retiree Don Ritchie Stops Suicidal Jumpers at Australia’s The Gap

83-year-old Don Ritchie lives across the street from The Gap, a notorious suicide spot in Sydney, Australia. Over the years, he's prevented about 400 people from ending their lives.

A couple of years ago, we wrote about Chen Si, a man in China who has appointed himself as the unofficial lifeguard of the Nanjing Bridge, where dozens of people attempt suicide each year. Apparently, he’s not the only person who’s taken it as his personal mission to help those without hope save themselves—you’ll find another guardian angel, 83-year-old Don Ritchie, minding The Gap in Sydney, Australia.

The Gap, a rocky cliff at the top of Sydney Harbour, is Australia’s most famous suicide spot, and Ritchie lives directly across the street. While most would consider that a macabre misfortune, Ritchie, a retired life insurance salesman, thinks it is a blessing. Ritchie has plenty of time on his hands, and he uses it to keep an eye on the cliff so that he can take note of any troubling situations.

He does his volunteer job well: over the 45 years he’s lived there, he’s rescued close to 400 would-be jumpers.

Although people go to The Gap intent on ending their lives, Ritchie has found that in most cases, all they really need is a kind word or two. Although there are some jumpers he’s been unable to save, he is usually able to talk them down from the ledge, and will invite them to his house for a cup of tea and a conversation.

“I’m offering them an alternative, really,” Ritchie told The Associated Press. “I always act in a friendly manner. I smile.”

Ritchie made such an impact on one woman that, several months after he talked her out of committing suicide, he received a bottle of Champagne and a postcard from her, saying “I’ll never forget your important intervention in my life. I am well.”

“A smile can go a long way — caring can go even further,” said Kevin Hines, a man who attempted to kill himself by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000. “And the fact that he offers them tea and he just listens, he’s really all they wanted.”