Wellness Checks from the Perspective of a Survivor - An Interview with Mona Wang

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.


Biography:

Pooja is a 15 year old from New Jersey that is passionate about socio-political issues. She hopes to raise awareness about these issues through writing, art, and social media.


Instagram: @poojarayapaneni


Cover Photo Source: CBC