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Shawna’s Story: I’m Still Here - Suicide Prevention Month

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This month, you’ve gotten to know Shawna Burns, LPC-S, LADAC-CS, SDP-S, through her advice for caring for your mental health and reaching out to and support others during Suicide Prevention Month. Now, hear her story and why her college basketball coach’s support is one of the reasons she’s still here today.

Last spring, I walked my six-year-old daughter went to basketball camp at North Arkansas College. As I walked into this gym, a flood of memories and emotions came back.

At 19 years old, I absolutely loved playing basketball for Coach Bobby Howard. He believed in me, even when I didn’t.

Even though I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Martin” yelled at me — more times than I can count (he never could remember to call me by my married name) —  I’ve only gotten upset with him one time: it was because he made me run bleachers.

I didn’t have to run them for messing up in a game. It wasn’t for missing a shot, not rebounding nor forgetting to block out. It was because I frowned.

During practice one day, I continued to grow angrier and angrier at myself because I continued to miss shots that were normally easy. For whatever reason, I was having a rough day, and I found a way to beat myself up with every little thing I did. And he noticed.

When I shot the ball, apparently, he could see the frustration all over me. He had already told me that if I ever frowned again or got down on myself for messing up, that I would be running a LOT of bleachers. That day, he made me run.

You see, Coach Howard had no idea what I was battling inside. He had no idea that I hated myself. He had no idea that I had horrible eating disorders and many days prayed that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

What he did know was that I mattered. He knew that loving and believing in yourself was the key to success. He also cared. He connected with me and made me feel important. And not just because I played basketball for him.

He believed in me and, that year, he found a way to make me believe in myself. That year, I thrived under his leadership.

Only a few years later, I would end up earning a degree in special education, middle school, counseling and coaching.

And, today, I am still here.

I walked in that gym last spring a totally different person than I was 20 years ago. That day, when I stepped onto that floor, I walked in with a healthy mind and heart and a precious daughter who got to play basketball with one of my heroes, Coach Bobby Howard.

Shawna Burns, LPC-S, LADAC-CS, SDP-S, is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor-Clinical Supervisor. She has counseled children and adults for the past 15 years and has created Seed Digging, a counseling approach that has helped hundreds of children and adults completely overcome mental health disorders and addictions. Shawna has written 4 books, mini curriculums, and has created live and online training programs, including the Seed Digging Trauma-Informed School-Based Health Model. She has trained in numerous school districts, mental health agencies, colleges, and at state and national conferences. One of her greatest desires is that children (and adults) will discover their amazing value and worth so that they can live a life full of joy and love.