Posts tagged: the Guardian of the Gap

Inspiring Story – This Amazing Man Saved Over 160 People From Suicide

Inspiring Story - This Amazing Man Saved Over 160 People From Suicide
Wikipedia(PD)

The Gap is an ocean cliff located in Sydney, New South Wales that is a popular visitor destination among tourists who revere the placed for its spectacular beauty. However, the place has sadly also gained infamy as a suicide spot over the years. It is estimated that about 50 jumpers a year plunge to their deaths from these beautiful but deadly cliffs which are located at the entrance to Sydney Harbor.

The suicide rate at The Gap could have been higher if not for the “heroic” efforts of one incredibly compassionate man. Don Ritchie has now officially saved the lives of more than 160 potential jumpers over a 50-year period – though the “unofficial” number could be way higher: The former insurance salesman’s family claimed that the number of people their patriarch had saved may have approached 500! Known across Australia as “the Guardian of the Gap”, Ritchie lived across the street from the famous suicide spot.

In his younger days, Ritchie actually physically prevented people from taking their lives at the notorious suicide spot by physically restraining them – while his wife, Moya, called the police. However when older, he changed his strategy, striking up a conversation with them, then, inviting them for coffee or breakfast at his house. According to Ritchie, he would always act in a friendly manner and would ask them questions such as “Is there something I could do to help you?” or “What are you doing over here?” That approach had helped him pull the suicide attempters back from their desperate state of mind.

Ritchie’s heroic deeds didn’t go unnoticed. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, in addition to numerous other community awards. He was also named a “local hero of the year” in Australia in 2011. This legendary man died of natural causes on May 13, 2012, age 86.

The Australian government had implemented several measures to dissuade those at risk of suicide at The Gap. Between 2008 and 2011, security cameras were installed to monitor the area, counseling phone booths were erected, and information booths from nonprofits The Black Dog Institute and beyondblue were made available. Both organizations are committed to addressing issues associated with depression, anxiety disorders, and related mental disorders.

These preventions approaches had reduced the number of deaths at hotspots including The Gap, says a University of Melbourne study [1]. Professor Jane Pirkis, lead author, noted that interventions to restrict access to The Gap resulted in 91 percent fewer suicides per year when looked at in combination with other methods. Suicide methods at high-risk locations have a small impact on overall suicide rates, but attract high-profile media attention which can lead to copycat acts, Pirkis adds. The study proposed blocking to a hotspot as a part of overall regional and national approach to suicide prevention.

Suicide remains a major public health issue around the world, with about 800,000 suicide deaths [2] annually, according to the website of the World Health Organization. The website notes that for each adult who died of suicide, there may have been more than twenty others attempting suicide.

References:

[1] Pirkis J et. al. (2007). The Newsworthiness of Suicide. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1521/suli.2007.37.3.278/abstract

[2] World Health Organization: Suicide Prevention http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/