Turn It Off: A Poem About Suicide

Following an unflinching account of her recent suicide attempt published on S&C earlier this week, Emily Priest returns with a video of her slam poetry performance of Turn It Off, a poem exploring the reality of living with mental ill health. The full text of the poem is published below.

*Warning: Strong Language*

If you want to help Emily in getting the conversation on mental health started, share the video on your social media.

Turn It Off

I attempted suicide this year
and if my friend hadn’t called the ambulance
I would be dead.
It was not the first time either.
Now – a prescription later
countless therapies later
home visits by the doctor
support from my friends
a holiday
better sleep
a better diet
my 5 a day –
I still want to die.
They say it will get better
and that I should try
but right now
I am living in a movie I want to eject,
because I don’t care how it ends.
The characters may be great
and it may have a happy end
but right now
all I want is silence.
That still black screen
and a moment of peace.

My mother says it’s all in my head
and I agree.
It’s not quite enough dopamine
or oxytocin –
a chemical imbalance I cannot see.
And that makes it worse.
I can’t see if I’m getting better.
Rather I have to live in hope
that I might heal
one day
whilst battling my doubts and demons
that scream
I won’t.

You see my body is a broken leg
and I cannot walk.
I find it painful each and every day
I take a step forward.
The damage,
although invisible inside my head,
is just as real
as the cracks in bone.

My family and friends say I have a lot to live for.
I know.
I can sit and list the reasons but,
I just
You’re clever.
You’re talented.
You have university.
You have a job.
You have a house.
You have potential.
You’re pretty.
I don’t
And that’s my problem.
It’s like caring for a child that’s not yours
or eating a meal when you’re not hungry
or living in a rented house.
I don’t see any point to it

See, I believe in reincarnation
and when I choked on those pills
I hoped that I would give this life
to someone who deserved it,
someone more grateful than me.
Someone who would build things
or help people,
work for charities
or go sky diving
and squeeze every drop out of life.

I know what I say is shocking
but it shouldn’t be.
3,000 people kill themselves a day.
Suicide has now become mundane
because we do not tackle it,
pin it down and scream in its face
‘enough is enough!’
We hide behind pixelated words
and online images,
hearts and stickers
in the real world,
mean nothing.

I told my 420 Facebook friends that I had attempted suicide.
Not for attention,
but rather
to get this conversation started.
I hoped that people would find bravery in my confession
and feel as if they weren’t the only ones
stuck watching this movie
that cannot turn off.
I wanted people to listen
and I didn’t want people to think that,
just because I’m working
that I am okay,
because I am NOT.

For every person who takes their own life
at least 20 people have attempted
and I am one of them.
I don’t want people to say they are sorry.
I don’t want people to tell me it’s okay
because it ISN’T.
It’s not okay I want to die
and it never will be.
So don’t sugar coat it
or roll it in honey
because this needs approaching.
Not from the side,
but right between the eyes
where it hurts.

I just want someone to turn to me and admit it
this movie is shit
and it will be for a while.
I’m going to have to sit through it
until it’s not.

Video and Poetry by Emily Priest