Don Ritchie lives across the street from the most famous suicide spot in Australia: A cliff known as "The Gap." Most people would move, but Ritchie's stayed for almost 50 years—saving an estimated 160 people from suicide.
So what's his big secret? Ritchie wakes up every morning and looks out the window for "anyone standing alone too close to the precipice." If he sees someone who looks like they might be contemplating a jump, he walks over and... strikes up a conversation.
He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they'd like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him.
"I'm offering them an alternative, really," Ritchie says. "I always act in a friendly manner. I smile."
Ritchie's house might be the worst real estate ever. One person a week commits suicide at the "the Gap," the cliff he lives across from. It's protected only by a small, one-meter fence, despite its legendary reputation as a suicide spot dating back to the 1800s.
But the former life insurance salesman says he doesn't feel "burdened" by the fact that people are always contemplating jumping to their deaths outside his house. In fact, he and his wife Moya see it as a blessing: "I think, 'Isn't it wonderful that we live here and we can help people?'"
Obviously, he's not always successful, and, at times, he's had to physically restrain people from jumping while Moya calls the police. But it isn't necessarily traumatic:
Despite all he has seen, he says he is not haunted by the ones who were lost. He cannot remember the first suicide he witnessed, and none have plagued his nightmares. He says he does his best with each person, and if he loses one, he accepts that there was nothing more he could have done.
Ritchie, who basically sounds like the nicest guy in the entire world, is 84, and has spent much of the last year battling cancer. But, as you might expect for a dude who's managed to live across from a fucked-up, tragic place, and not become a casualty himself, he's optimistic: "I imagine somebody else will come along and do what I've been doing." I hope so.