Suicide Prevention’s Biggest Problem: It Never “Gets Better”

Gabriel Nathan
7 min readFeb 13
FYI: people who die by suicide don’t “give up”, but that’s another rant for another post. Also, I used this picture because a) I took it and b) all the Unsplash pics on this topic suck shit. (Author’s pic and fingers.)

I recently started an “Ask Me Anything” about mental health and suicide prevention on my Instagram, and I have some pretty mixed feelings about it. And when I say “it”, that’s kind of misleading, because there is no end to the “it” about which I have mixed feelings — it’s more of “I have some pretty mixed feelings about they” and that’s not me trying to be cute or glib about gender pronouns.

I feel at once ill-equipped to be positioning myself as a sage-on-the-stage; someone who is even capable of answering even the most basic questions about mental health and/or suicide prevention (can there even be a basic question about those topics?) and, at the same time, I’m pretty comfortable in the role; I have years of experience as a front-line inpatient mental health provider, decades of being mentally ill myself, I’ve been doing suicide awareness advocacy work for years and while I’m no beauty prize, I’m at least comfortable in front of the camera (thanks, $96,000 undergraduate degree in theatre!). I am, frankly, grossed out by lots of people who are doing similar things to what I’m doing, and the fact that I will, once/if more people start watching, start comparing me to them, I will probably end up reaching down my own throat to pull out my spleen and insert pieces of it into my eyeballs just so I don’t have to see the comments. Of course, nobody can rake me over the coals like I can, so whatever criticism/hate I receive will flutter and tremble in comparison to what I effortlessly dish out to serve myself. And there’s actually a fair bit of comfort in that.

(I take it where and when I can. With a side of spleen.)

On the first day I launched the A.M.A., I received the following question:

“Everybody says “It gets better. With therapy, with medication…” But, when. When does it get better?”

And this is, I think, suicide prevention’s biggest problem. There is no way to answer this question, because no suicide prevention or awareness advocate wants to say, “It doesn’t” but, if we don’t do that, then we aren’t telling the truth, and I think people — particularly people who are in unfathomable pain — deserve better than to be lied to.

Gabriel Nathan

Gabe is Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, a mental health publication. He drives an old VW year round and wears corduroy trousers in the summer.