The Man Who Saved 160 From Suicide – and What We Can Learn From Him

 88-year old Don Ritchie’s house is on a high plateau in Australia with a great view.  It might seem like a dream retirement home to some, but there’s a catch – right outside his door is a popular suicide spot where people show often to throw themselves off of a cliff.

It probably doesn’t sound like a dream house anymore.  But Don doesn’t mind because he’s found his calling – he talks people out of suicide.

When someone is standing at the ledge getting ready to jump, Don can be found catching up to them and hoping it’s not too late.  When he arrives, he simply smiles and asks if they would like to come in and have a cup of tea.

Rather than pretend to be something he’s not (in this case, a therapist), Don just listens to people’s problems and lets them know that he cares, and he’s saved approximately 160 lives this way.  I’ve known many people who help depressed people to become even more depressed by trying to fix their problems citing homespun wisdom and tired clichés – Don Ritchie just listens.   He is not always successful, but the lives he has saved make him a very happy person despite the ones who still jump (sometimes right in front of him).  There’s more to this wonderful story, and I recommend you read it here.

For our purposes, we should consider how truly awful it is that one cannot find a nice face or an understanding ear sometimes until it is almost too late.  This chilling paragraph from the same article says it all:

Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

Not one person.  (Of course, San Fransisco, like L.A., is well known for its morose citizens.)  It’s fantastic that Don Ritchie does what he does, but he shouldn’t have to.  What if you were the person who listened to someone’s problem before they got to the ledge?  Perhaps I should try to be the Don Ritchie that people around me need before they get to that point.  Of course, none of us will be so famous as Don for our efforts – in fact, we can never know if we are helping people or not – but we should remember to do our best for those around us because we simply don’t know what they are going through.

many years ago I met a young man when I was in a grumpy mood and I didn’t take the time to talk with him – he shot himself soon after.  I’m sure I probably wouldn’t have made a difference if I had chatted with him, but I might have.  I’ve changed how I deal with people ever since that happened.

(Story via Instapundit)

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