Wellness checks are intended to ensure the safety and wellbeing of individuals who may be at risk. While they can be crucial in preventing harm, some people have found themselves at the receiving end of intrusive and harassing check-ups that have left them feeling traumatized and violated. This article aims to shed light on the issue of wellness check harassment, providing insights into the factors that contribute to it and ways to prevent it from occurring.
II. Understanding Wellness Checks
Wellness checks are typically conducted by police officers, social workers, or other professionals, and are carried out to ensure the safety and wellbeing of individuals who may be at risk. They are often requested by concerned friends, family, or neighbors who have not been able to contact the person in question and are worried about their welfare.
Some of the circumstances that can necessitate a wellness check include suicidal threats or attempts, signs of physical or emotional abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, and erratic behavior.
Wellness checks are usually conducted in person, and the service provider will interview the person in question, assess their mental and physical health, and determine if any further action is necessary.
III. Factors That Contribute to Wellness Check Harassment
While wellness checks are intended to be beneficial, there are certain factors that can contribute to them becoming harassing or even traumatic experiences for the individuals being checked up on. Here are some of the key factors:
A. Lack of communication
When the service provider does not adequately communicate the reason for the wellness check or ignores the concerns of the concerned parties, the check-up can become intrusive and overwhelming.
B. Excessive intrusiveness
If the service provider fails to ensure the comfort and dignity of the individual being checked up on, the check-up can become too invasive, causing significant emotional and psychological distress.
C. Insensitivity towards the victim’s feelings
When the service provider dismisses the concerns of the individual being checked up on or behaves insensitively towards them, the check-up can be experienced as humiliating or degrading.
D. Demonizing the victim or assuming guilt without proof
If the service provider approaches the check-up from a perspective of suspicion or demonizes the individual being checked up on, the check-up can become a form of harassment, particularly if there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
IV. Legal Implications of Wellness Checks
Wellness check harassment is a form of harassment, which is defined by law as unwanted conduct that violates an individual’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, or offensive environment.
In light of this, victims of wellness check harassment may have legal recourse. Notable cases include the 2014 case of Erwin v. City of Chicago, where damages were awarded to a man who had been subjected to a wellness check by police officers who had broken into his home and tasered him. Another case is that of Barnes v. Zaccagni, where a woman was awarded damages for the emotional distress she experienced after police officers conducted a wellness check on her husband without a warrant.
If a person experiences wellness check harassment, they may have the option to take legal action against the service provider or the agency responsible. This may include filing a lawsuit or lodging a complaint with the appropriate regulatory body.
V. Role of Race and Ethnicity in Wellness Check Harassment
The issue of race and ethnicity cannot be overlooked when discussing wellness check harassment. Historical instances of racial profiling have led to a disproportionate number of wellness check incidents involving people of color.
A. Historical instances of racial profiling
Examples of racial profiling include the stop-and-frisk policies employed by the NYPD, which were disproportionately targeted towards people of color, or the shooting death of Alton Sterling, a black man who was killed during a wellness check by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
B. Racial disparities in wellness check incidents
According to a study conducted by the New York Times, black people are more likely to be the subject of wellness check-ups, and are more likely to be perceived as a threat or dangerous. Statistics also show that black people are more likely to be the victims of police shootings during wellness checks.
C. Statistical data supporting the claim
According to The Washington Post, black people are killed by police at a rate of 2.5 times higher than white people.
VI. Best Practices for Conducting Wellness Checks
While some wellness checks are unavoidably intrusive, other check-ups can be conducted in a way that is sensitive to the individual’s needs and rights. Here are some best practices that service providers can follow to reduce the likelihood of harassment:
A. Dos and don’ts for service providers
Service providers should be trained to avoid aggressive behavior or using excessive force or violence. They should also be trained to respect the individual’s dignity, privacy, and agency.
B. Recommended communication strategies with the victim and their loved ones
Service providers should communicate openly and honestly with the individual and their loved ones, providing clear explanations of the reasons for the check-up.
C. Techniques for minimizing intrusion and making the check-up less overwhelming
Service providers can reduce intrusion by conducting the check-up in a manner that is respectful of the individual’s privacy and dignity. In some cases, it may also be appropriate to involve the individual’s loved ones in the process.
VII. Recommendations for Improving Wellness Check-Ups
There are several ways that wellness check-ups can be improved to prevent harassment and ensure the well-being of the individual.
A. Expert opinions and suggestions
Experts recommend implementing protocols for conducting wellness checks that are informed by research and established best practices, as well as providing training for service providers to ensure that they are empathetic, trauma-informed, and sensitive to the individual’s rights and needs.
B. Addressing communication gaps between service providers and the concerned parties
Service providers should communicate clearly with the concerned parties, keeping them informed of the person’s condition and any necessary steps that should be taken.
C. Regular follow-ups to ensure the wellness check is conducted responsibly
Service providers should maintain regular contact with the individual and their loved ones to ensure that the check-up is conducted responsibly and that any issues are addressed in a timely manner.
VIII. Victim’s Perspective on Wellness Checks
Finally, it is crucial to recognize the emotional and psychological impact that wellness check harassment can have on individuals. Victims of wellness check harassment often report feelings of fear, humiliation, and violation.
Giving these individuals a platform to share their stories can help raise awareness of the issue and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. It is essential to acknowledge the importance of creating avenues for victims to seek support and redress.
This article has provided an overview of the issue of wellness check harassment, exploring the factors that contribute to it and ways to prevent it from occurring. It also highlights the role of race and ethnicity in the problem and provides best practices and recommendations for service providers.
Ultimately, wellness check-ups are not inherently harmful, and they are necessary in many cases to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals. However, it is essential that they are conducted in a responsible and sensitive manner, and that the rights and dignity of the individual being checked up on are respected.
By following established best practices and implementing protocols that are informed by research and expert opinions, service providers can ensure that wellness check-ups are conducted responsibly and without causing harm to the individuals involved.