• Yvonne Haughton

Interpreting a suicide note

We all know how versatile and surprising the life of an interpreter can be but sometimes things still rattle you up. What I am relating now is one of those moments.

I was called to a police station for an interpretation. Usually, this would mean someone was arrested and I translate their statement in presence of their attorney.

This time it was different.

There was no arrest, in fact, nobody there to translate for. The officer hands me a handwritten letter out of an evidence bag and asks me to translate it while she types it into the report.

As I wait for the officer to be ready I look over the letter and gasped. It was a suicide note. I stopped abruptly and told the officer that I would wait until we begin and not read it beforehand, if not I’ll be too emotional to do anything. Damn empathy!


The note was, of course, very moving and sad and, naturally, I will not reveal any details.


The handwriting was in the typical style of that language. As an interpreter you don’t only translate words but must know how to read the handwriting - each language has different styles and customs.



After we were finished stating the content of the letter I said to the officer, “I assume this person is no longer with us?” But to my surprise the person was alive. Drove away to an obscure place to fulfil their (plural to not state any gender) wish but was found before it took complete effect and was brought by helicopter to the hospital.

I don’t know what happens next but I deeply hope this person receives all the help they need to recover and feel loved, important, needed and happy.


To the unknown, I wish you all the best and that you may once again find happiness.


The Interpreter