In September 2020, a post to The Ward Facebook group – a private fanclub dedicated to Meachen’s work – announced the aspiring author had taken her own life after she was bullied by fellow authors to the point of suicide.
But earlier this year, Susan Meachen was resurrected when she posted to the Facebook group that she, in fact, was alive. “I debated on how to do this a million times and still not sure if it’s right or not,” Meachen’s post read. “There’s going to be tons of questions and a lot of people leaving the group I’d guess. But my family did what they thought was best for me and I can’t fault them for it. I almost died again at my own hand and they had to go through all that hell again. Returning to The Ward doesn’t mean much but I am in a good place now and I am hoping to write again. Let the fun begin.”
The announcement received major backlash from fellow indie writers and romance authors online, some of whom had grieved the loss of their colleague and even allegedly donated to funeral funds in the wake of her “death”.
Now, in a new interview with The New York Times, the Tennessee-based aspiring author said she was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder – a mental health condition characterised by periods of mania or depression – that made it difficult to deal with the pressures of the online romance community.
“I think it’s a very dangerous mix-up, especially if you have a mental illness,” she told the New York Times. “I would log on and get in, and at some point in the day my two worlds would collide, and it would be hard to differentiate between book world and the real world. It was like they would sandwich together.”
However, Meachen said the book world was like “an addiction” for her, and it only made her disorder worse. Her husband, Troy, said the “book world” was becoming a danger to his wife’s welfare.
He instructed their 22-year-old daughter to write the Facebook post announcing Meachen’s so-called death after an incident in autumn 2020, in which their daughter found Meachen semiconscious from taking a large dose of Xanax.
“I told them that she is dead to the indie world, the internet, because we had to stop her, period,” he recalled. “She could not stop it on her own. And, even to this day, I’ll take 100 per cent of the blame, the accolades, whatever you want to call it.”
The post read: “Author Susan Meachen left this world behind Tuesday night for bigger and better things.
“Please leave us alone we have no desire in this messed-up industry.”
This wasn’t the first time Susan Meachen had publicly spoken about her mental health issues. In one Facebook post, which was shared just one month before Meachen’s alleged death, she revealed to her nearly 1,300 friends that she’d previously attempted suicide and would be publishing her final book on 30 October.
Speaking to the New York Times, Meachen’s psychiatrist, Dr Niansen Liu, confirmed that she is under seeking treatment for bipolar disorder and has been prescribed medications for anxiety, depression, and psychosis.
Following news of Meachen’s death, two fundraisers appeared to be shared to Meachen’s Facebook page to support suicide prevention, while editors also offered to copy edit Meachen’s posthumous novel free of charge.
According to the outlet, many people have since called for Meachen to be prosecuted for fraud, claiming that she faked her death to sell books or solicit cash donations. Others have reported her to the Federal Bureau of Investigation cybercrimes unit. Meachen was even approached by two police officers at her home in Benton, Tennessee.
“I’m sorry for their mourning, but from a legal standpoint, I did nothing wrong,” she said. “Morally, I might have done something wrong. But legally, there’s nothing wrong.”
Susan Meachen’s fake death announcement made headlines when screenshots of a Facebook post from fellow author Samantha A Cole went viral on Twitter. Speaking to The Independent, Cole described the moment she learned from a friend that Meachen had announced she was still alive, and asked Meachen in the comments section whether her death had been a hoax.
Cole also revealed in her viral post that Meachen had created a burner profile under the name “TN Steele” just one month after her alleged suicide.
Now that Meachen’s supposed suicide has taken the literature world by storm, she’s said that some people have been impersonating her on social media issuing comments about the scandal.
One Substack newsletter, titled “Upstream Reviews”, claimed they had an exclusive interview with Meachen herself. They later edited their Substack post with the disclaimer that the person they spoke to was, in fact, not Meachen.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.