Shawnee Thompson likes music, animals, and writing. But in late 2015, when she was 14-years-old, she was bullied and sent hurtful text messages — and she could not make the harassment stop. Within a few months, the untrue words became too much for her to handle. Shawnee started to believe she was worthless and soon she hit rock bottom.
From rock bottom to regaining her life
Initially, Shawnee didn't reveal to her parents the extent of the bullying, but they knew something was terribly wrong. When they realized she was suicidal and escalating in self-harm behavior, they had to act quickly. They took her to McKay-Dee Hospital's pediatric behavioral health unit, about 45 minutes from their Tremonton, Utah, home, and Shawnee was admitted.
David Orme, MD, McKay-Dee child psychiatrist, immediately met with her parents, Jennifer and Kasey Thompson, reassuring them that Shawnee was in the right place. Jennifer still remembers how comforting it was to hear Dr. Orme say he knew she would get better.
Within days, Shawnee was able to regain her strength through activities like therapy and writing. Her family was overwhelmed by the help she received from the hospital and her Intermountain caregivers.
"It was a horrendous experience to go through," says her mother Jennifer. "But today Shawnee is well adjusted and helping others to build their self-esteem." Her life was not only saved, but she is a different person a year and a half later. Today she is confident, and her and her family credit Intermountain for saving her life.
Sharing her gratitude with the community
In fact, Shawnee has turned things around so completely she is the 2017 Miss Box Elder County's Outstanding Teen, with a platform of speaking out against bullying and helping teens build self-esteem and resilience. Last year she won the people's choice award in the Miss Utah Outstanding Teen program, which awarded her scholarship money from Utah Valley University and an opportunity to donate $500 to the nonprofit of her choice. She chose Intermountain. She tearfully presented the check to McKay-Dee Hospital in August.
"We didn't even question which charity to give this to," says Jennifer.
The family is forever grateful for her caregivers at the McKay-Dee Hospital pediatric behavioral health unit, particularly: David Orme, MD, Scott Nesiba, nurse manager, Clint Thurgood, behavioral health services manager, Xochitl Camarena, psych tech, and others.
What has the family learned about bullying?
"Bullies are people who've been bullied themselves or are hurting," says Shawnee. "You can't necessarily stop them, but don't ever let someone else tell you what you're worth. I hadn't realized it wasn't normal to be bullied and treated badly. The day I realized I was better than that was when I started to get better."Shawnee plans to continue competing in pageants and inspiring others through her journey. She is participating for the second year in the Miss Utah Outstanding Teen scholarship program this September. Unlike most contestants Shawnee is new to participating in pageants and excited about what’s ahead.