“Without a real car, I’m only half-a-man.”
Dean Jones – The Love Bug
Who the hell IS this guy anyway?
Gabriel Nathan describes himself as a “writer, actor, director, editor, mental health and suicide awareness advocate and certified Herbie Freak.” He first fell in love with the character of Herbie in 1985 when his Aunt Rena, visiting from Israel, rented a copy of “The Love Bug” on Betamax so Gabe’s parents could go out to dinner together. “My brain broke” that night, says Gabriel about his first viewing of “The Love Bug.” He was instantly obsessed, quickly devouring all manner of minutiae about the Beetle– when door handles, windows, turn signals, seats were changed (you know, just like most children his age) and he ardently believed that, one day, he would own his own “Love Bug.” It took several false starts (and he’s certainly had a few of those since owning his own Love Bug) but he finally made his dream come true.
Gabe lives with anxiety and depression, and has struggled with many aspects of his mental health and overall self-image since he was a little boy. He first reached the point of considering suicide in college, after incessant bullying (which had also occurred in elementary, middle, and high school). Instead of taking his own life, he sought help at the college counseling center, seeing therapists all throughout his sophomore, junior, and senior years; though he stubbornly resisted the pharmacological interventions that were recommended to him at the time by an off-campus psychiatrist.
Foundering somewhat occupationally after college, Gabe held a series of what he calls “strange jobs” including optician, loan officer, emergency medical technician, theater teacher/administrator when he landed at the doorstep of a non-profit crisis psychiatric hospital in Norristown, Pennsylvania. There, again–strangely– Gabe flourished, facilitating a wide variety of psychoeducational and recreational groups for the patients and developing close, meaningful relationships with many of his colleagues. He received a promotion to Development Specialist after three years on the inpatient unit and, in this capacity, he created innovative programs such as a psychiatric visiting nurse program, a suicide prevention collaboration with SEPTA, and an Inpatient Concert Series that brought professional performing artists to entertain the patients and enrich their inpatient experience. While at the hospital, Gabe also produced and directed a full-scale production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town with the staff of the hospital, as an exercise in teamwork, empathy-building, and creative expression. Years later, its impact is still keenly felt among the staff.
It was at the hospital, working closely with suicidal individuals and collaborating with the Director of Suicide Prevention that Gabe’s interest in suicide prevention really took hold. Years earlier, his Aunt Rena, who had first shown him “The Love Bug” took her own life, at a psychiatric hospital in Israel. These events have all contributed to the suicide awareness work that he does with his Herbie replica.
Continuing on his mental health recovery journey, Gabe has been taking an anxiolytic/anti-depressant and has been seeing the same therapist since 2010. He is the Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, an online publication devoted to publishing first person essays and producing original documentary films about mental health, empowerment, and change, and he is an independent suicide awareness advocate. In 2019, Gabe gave a TEDx Talk about his work in suicide awareness, viewable here. Gabe lives in a suburb of Philadelphia with (duh), Herbie, his wife, his GB twins, a basset hound named Tennessee and a long-haired German Shepherd named Sadie.