Privacy and completed suicide

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Trigger warning: As the title says, I will be talking about death by suicide. Please consider skipping this post if it could be triggering for you.

I was recently reading the book Suicidal: Why We Kill Ourselves, and it included excerpts from the diary of a teenage girl who completed suicide. The diary was kept on her laptop, and in it she was very open about the thoughts and feelings she was having leading up to her death. The inclusion of the diary in the book was of course done with the permission of her parents, but still I found it intensely disturbing. This girl did not in any way consent to this, despite the author’s interpretation that it had been written as though she expected someone to read it. What happens to privacy when someone dies by suicide? Is that something that’s automatically forfeited? Do personal writings suddenly shift into the public domain?

It makes me sick to think of people reading my private unfiltered thoughts. A few years ago when I was having very intense thoughts of suicide, I threw the years worth of journals I’d kept in the trash because I was adamant that no one should be able to read them after I was dead. Logically I know it doesn’t make a difference at that point because hey, I’m dead, but that doesn’t at all lessen the heebie-jeebies factor. At the same time I password-protected my computer, something I’d never done before. I’ve kept the password protection ever since, with that same reason hovering in the back of my mind.

My last suicide attempt was the only one in which I had written a suicide note. The police took the suicide note and gave it to the hospital, and it was read aloud by my hospital psychiatrist during a review panel hearing in which I was challenging my involuntary commitment to hospital. It was strange hearing him read it, and somehow it felt extremely invasive.

The reality is that if someone becomes desperate enough that they attempt and complete suicide, they no longer have control over anything they’ve left behind. Loved ones are obviously going to want to try to understand what motivated the act, and there’s no question they’ll be reading anything written that was left behind. That makes sense and I would never expect that a loved one would choose not to read journals and that type of things. Yet it still disturbs me, and now that the thought is in my mind, I don’t know that I would ever be able to push it out. Maybe that’s morbid, maybe I don’t know what it is. But for me it’s real.

Is this something that you’ve ever thought about?

If you’re having thoughts of suicide and need support, please see my list of crisis resources to find different ways you can reach out for help.

Originally published at on November 27, 2018.

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle |