Crisis Team History

  • On January 31, 1988, an 8th grade student at Hughes Middle School, located at 806 N. Washington St., died of suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning at her home near the school. Her death shocked students and staff at Hughes Middle School, creating a need for days of counseling assistance at the school. Counselor Jim Kindschi reached out to school psychologist Brenda Lipp, Bismarck High Assistant Principal Rick Heidt, and Police Youth Bureau Director Mark LoMurray. Lipp had some crisis hotline training, having been previously employed by West Central Human Services. Heidt had gone through a suicide of a friend. LoMurray was a key link within the police department. Together they managed the tragedy and helped countless staff members, students, friends and family.

    A year later, a Hughes teacher and coach died by suicide on February 3, 1988. The team was again activated, and later grew in membership as the group provided training to others in the Bismarck-Mandan area and statewide, thanks in part to funding from Myrt Armstrong, executive director of the Mental Health Association of North Dakota. Therefore, Bismarck Public Schools was the initiator of the Crisis Team concept in the school district and later developed it to be a Community Crisis Team by including members outside of the school system.

    In addition to providing grief counseling services, the Community Crisis Team, with representatives from Bismarck and Mandan schools and agencies, has four training meetings each school year, goes to funerals, wakes and family homes, if needed, and has worked with news media so that they no longer publicize deaths by suicide to minimize contagion. Team members are also careful to take care of themselves after an incident, as well as provide support for law enforcement who go through tragedies such as these. Last but not least, team members are a resource for teachers and other employees who suspect a student may want to take his or her own life or harm others, as school staff are required to be mandatory reporters of student behavior which may put themselves or others in danger.

    Grief never ends…but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…it’s the price of love.