Asylum attorneys have been facing a longstanding mental health crisis. The pandemic, sweeping regulatory changes, and uncertainty created deeper dimensions of stress in an already chaotic immigration system. To address this crisis, in 2020, Professors Lindsay Harris and Hillary Mellinger surveyed over 700 immigration attorneys utilizing the National Asylum Attorney Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress Survey. Their groundbreaking study found that asylum attorneys displayed symptoms of burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) at rates higher than immigration judges, social workers, hospital doctors, nurses, and prison wardens. Asylum attorneys reported burnout symptoms including not only depression, but boredom, cynicism, discouragement, and a loss of compassion. Notably, STS symptoms mirror Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which include intrusive thoughts, traumatic nightmares, insomnia, chronic irritability, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and hypervigilance.
The ABA has a longstanding commitment to address and identify resources to ameliorate attorney well-being and mental health. While strides have been made, this panel seeks to build upon the study to facilitate a normative shift away from old mental health paradigms to a culture of openly discussing burnout and secondary trauma within law school settings, non-profits, government agencies, and law firms.
This webinar, moderated by Deena Sharuk, Senior Legal Advisor to the ABA Commission on Immigration (COI), along with experts Law Professor Lindsay Harris, Criminal Justice and Criminology Professor Hillary Mellinger, ABA COI Senior Staff Attorney Eloy Gardea, and Leora Hudak from Center for Victims of Torture will discuss the implications of the survey’s findings on lawyers, their clients, and the immigration system. The panelists will discuss concrete ways to shift the norms in the legal profession on an individual and institutional level for attorneys to build sustainable careers in this field.
Watch the webinar here >>
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