Wellness Checks from the Perspective of a Survivor - An Interview with Mona Wang
Updated: Mar 26
TW: Police brutality, violence
This summer, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement and the surge of injustices
surfacing on social media, one particular incident caught the national media’s attention: that of Mona Wang’s. On January 20, 2020, Wang, a nursing student, from Kelowna, British Columbia, suffered from a mental illness crisis and was subject to a wellness check (an in-person visit in response to a request relating to one’s mental health). Lacey Browning was the officer to report to the call and arrive on scene at Wang’s suite for a routine mental wellness check to assess the individual and their health.
Surveillance footage revealed that Wang was dragged from her apartment by Browning,
repeatedly punched in the face and pulled by the hair, resulting in the popping of her blood vessels in her sclera, bruises across her body, and immeasurable trauma. Despite the footage, Browning tells a different story in that she claims that Wang became violent and was “struck several times with an open palm” in order to control Wang in her moment of aggression.
We conducted an online interview with Mona Wang to hear her story and perspective on events following her abuse.
The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) held a second press conference and
expressed the need for nurses to accompany police in wellness checks going forward. With your experience as a student nurse, do you believe that this will be successful in
de-escalating situations? And if not, what do you feel should be the appropriate measures taken during these situations?
"I don't think that it needs a trained professional to have the common decency and compassion to be able to treat someone with respect; of course, it would be great if we had professionals who are trained on de-escalation skills. But I don't believe that it takes so much to empathize and to treat people like they’re human beings. I do wish that there was more de-escalation and relational practice training within the police force if they continue to answer these calls. As we know this isn’t the first time that something like this has happened and luckily I was able to come out alive. I was just looking at the past couple of months and so many Canadian people of color have been killed by the police for these mental health calls and that’s not something that should be normalized."
Chief Supt. Brad Haugli stated that “accountability will be advanced as appropriate” as he
acknowledged his concerns. Do you have faith in the justice system and believe that parties will be held accountable for their actions?
"It's been so long and nothing really has been done, they haven’t really shown that this is an urgent matter or that this is a priority. It is very disappointing especially because I just want to get this over with. [Browning is] still employed and since then people have come out and said that she’s done similar things. There have been times where I’m just out in Kelowna and people come up to me telling me about their own personal stories with Browning. She has caused so much trauma to so many people, it’s insane that she’s still working. It shouldn't take the national media’s attention for something to be done.
Truth is, I submitted and filed my lawsuit very shortly after everything happened and the RCMP was made aware of what had happened as well. But she was still in the same position and nothing changed until the media got a hold of the footage and that’s when they decided to put her on desk duty. It shouldn’t take that much to demote someone or for them to have some sort of accountability."
With you speaking out about your experience, what do you want this generation to learn
from your experience?
"Take care of yourself. Reach out whether that's a friend or a teacher or a counselor, reach out and take care of yourself. If anything happens that you feel is unjust, you should speak out because if you keep that inside, nothing is going to be done."
For the past eight months, Mona Wang has been doing so in speaking up about the injustice that she faced. She continues to be an advocate for mental health on social media and urges her supporters to raise awareness on related issues. Additionally, Wang has gone on to file a civil lawsuit against the RCMP, which has been “under investigation” for months.
Mona Wang’s story has drawn parallels to countless others’ unfortunate relations with the police during wellness checks, especially people of color. Ultimately, this had led many to urge for the reform of police departments within Canada and the United States. The movement towards civic reform continues with leaders like Wang, and the steadfast support of allies.
This piece is an interview with Mona Wang, a survivor of police brutality who has overcome trauma as well as becoming a leader in her community to speak up about the injustices that are present.
Image credit: CBC