When a vehicle was driven into the Waukesha Christmas parade, killing 6 people and injruing 62, on Nov. 21, 2021, Mandy Quesnell, director of mental and behavioral health at Children’s Wisconsin in Wauwatosa, started putting together a team to staff a mental health crisis hotline that community members could call for support.
In less than a day, she had the staffing and infrastructure in place to begin taking calls. Licensed therapists and social workers were ready to offer advice to parents and refer people to additional resources if necessary.
The hotline was staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for 10 days. If a call came in after those hours, it was automatically forwarded to the state support line, which was open 24/7. In those 10 days, nearly 100 people called in to get support and 17 people were referred to ongoing therapy.
“Mandy knew it was critical that parents could talk to their kids about the horrific violence in a way that would not further traumatize them,” said Dr. Smriti Khare, chief mental and behavioral health officer at Children’s Wisconsin.