July 25th, 2015
Image Source: kikiandtea.com
“The Gap” is a secluded ocean cliff that overlooks the Tasman Sea in southeastern Australia. It is Australia’s most frequented suicide spot due to it’s steep decline into the deep water below. This infamous no-man’s land was also the home of Don Ritchie.
Don Ritchie served in the Second World War in the Royal Australian Navy. After the War he became a life insurance salesman. Having grown up in a town close to the Gap, Don knew of the cliff’s notoriety as a suicide salesman. He decided to settle in a lonely house across the street from the Gap.
From this proximity, Don managed to help hundreds of depressed individuals who would arrive at the Gap with suicide on their minds. Don would go up to the distressed people and ask “Is there something I could do to help you?” The suicide-minded people would stop and have a chat with “the old man with the kind words and the smile”.
Don would strike a conversation with the individuals and change their minds about giving up on their lives. Some would’ve laid their shoes, wallets and a note on the coastal rocks and were poised to leap before being gently coaxed back from the edge.
Don explained his intervention in suicide attempts saying, “You can’t just sit there and watch them”. His efforts managed to save the lives of 160 people, though the number could be as high as 500 according to his family.
He passed away in 2012 of natural causes, but his legacy lives on. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his humanitarian work. Today, he is remembered as the “Angel of the Gap”. When interviewed by a newspaper, 86-year-old Don had said, “I imagine somebody else will come along and do what I’ve been doing (after I’m gone).”
The Logical Indian community salutes Don Ritchie. Everyday heroes like him reaffirm our faith in humanity, and inspire us to follow his lead.