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Team at Children's Wisconsin helps communities heal after tragedy

Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 18:38:02-05

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — When situations like the Waukesha parade tragedy shake a community, a team at Children's Wisconsin responds in the aftermath as a way to help people heal.

"We'll go in and sometimes we'll be doing small group interventions. Sometimes it's like a large group intervention," said Nichole Stangel, coordinator for the Critical Incident Stress Management team, or CISM, at Children's Wisconsin.

The CISM team works with staff across the health system, but they also jump in when an incident impacts a wider community, like the death of a teacher, for example.

Recently, Stangel's team held multiple crisis interventions at Waukesha South High School, where several members of the band were injured in the parade tragedy. Their efforts also reached St. Augustine Prep after a chemical exposure at the school pool sent several students to the hospital.

Stangel said they work with people to acknowledge and address the trauma and stress that arise.

"Once you get the information of this is what you could experience, this is how I can help myself, how I can help my family, that really can take that distress that you feel that might be up here and bring it down because there's that little bit of control that's been given back to you," Stangel said.

Stangel added that so far in 2021, they have done twice as many group interventions as the year before.

The work can get heavy, but Stangel said seeing the impact they have on others keeps them going.

"Sometimes it's just that relief on somebody's face to know that okay, I'm normal or I have something that I can do that's going to be helpful for myself or my family. I think just knowing how much people are getting out of it kind of fills you up," said Stangel.

The CISM team is made up of trained and certified volunteers who do the work in addition to their regular job duties.

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