How This Attorney Is Getting Mental Health Resources to Tragedy-Struck Families

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Civil rights attorney and activist Lee Merritt advocates social equality to end mass imprisonment and end the war on drugs. While his high-profile law firm is dedicated to helping victims of police brutality, hate crime, and corporate discrimination, he is also committed to making mental health resources accessible to all who need them through his new organization. He spoke to Jessica Abo about Unlimited Resources, Ways You Can Help, and Why Destigmatizing the Need for Mental Health Resources is so important.

Jessica Abo: Lee, tell us a little bit about your career path.

Lee Merritt: I was born in Los Angeles, California, in a community commonly known as South Central, and was attached to the prison industrial complex. My father was imprisoned for most of my life and is still imprisoned today. My mother, a single mother, raised us to appreciate our culture, to appreciate our community and origins, but to try to do better.

Eventually I attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, got a degree in history, and started teaching in downtown Atlanta and Camden, New Jersey for a while before deciding to go back to law school myself.

As a lawyer, I first worked for the Cochran company and then started my own practice mainly focused on civil rights. The aim was to represent families on issues of police brutality, corporate discrimination and other forms of racial prejudice.

So many people are familiar with your work because they have read about you for years. But what would you want people to know about you when it comes to who you are personally and professionally that they may not find in your bio?

Merritt: How much I care. The reason I care so much, not just for the cases and the results of the cases and the future of this country, is that I am personally invested. Growing up in South Central as a young black man influenced my view of the world. I’ve watched the criminal justice system shape my community, imprisoning every male figure I knew was an adult. Now, as a grown black man, it is my responsibility to be a role model and role model for my children. I think of them every day when I go to the courtrooms and I think about how safe our present society is for them, how much our society says about their worth, about their sanity. As I dedicate myself to work, not only do I hope to succeed as a lawyer, but this is a deeply personal struggle that will affect my family for generations.

What made you choose to start Limitless Resource when you were working in the courtroom?

Merritt: In 2017, I represented the family of a young man named Jordan Edwards. He was a 15-year-old from North Texas, a young soccer player who had attended his first high school party with his brothers. When he left the party, police suspected the car was involved in criminal activity and a police officer named Roy Oliver picked up a high powered rifle and poured five rounds into the car, hit Jordan Edwards in the head and killed him.

This was the first family I had dealt with that had lost a child in such a traumatic way. We had a responsibility to lead her through the criminal process, through the civil process, and I saw myself in this family again and again. I saw the damage, the impact this tragedy had not only on the precious life of Jordan Edwards, but also on the impact it had on his father, mother, aunts, and most importantly, his brothers who were with him at the time he was killed.

It’s something they’ve never fully recovered from. They told me that if they closed their eyes at night they would see smoke rising from their brother’s head. It was something they couldn’t miss. And I knew that whatever the criminal outcome, and it was the first case in 40 years, that a Dallas cop was actually jailed for murder, whatever the civil outcome, and this case has not yet been completed I knew this family needed something more. They needed a resource that could help them heal, grow, and preserve the Jordan Edwards legacy.

Every case I’ve dealt with since then, in some way, echoed that trauma that there didn’t seem to be a catalyst to deal with it. Yes, there are criminal courts. Yes, there are civil courts that deal with the crime and the tort related to it, but there has been nothing to deal with the impact this type of trauma has on families and communities. So I want to start Limitless Resource to fill this gap in service.

Jordan Edward’s case was my first death. I didn’t notice it at the time, but it affected me directly. I fell into a depression because I wasn’t really aware of mental health and it wasn’t discussed in the communities where I grew up. I didn’t know what was going on. I gained weight. I had trouble sleeping. I was having trouble focusing and thought I should just challenge it and go to the gym and get into work.

But what I needed was psychological advice. There was actual trauma, just like any other injury. There was an injury in my brain; There was an injury to my psyche that needed to be healed. I started to learn more about it and gave myself the resources I needed for this work. And then of course I wanted to share the resources that I learned about with my clients.

How does Limitless Resource work?

Merritt: We hope to bring families together with resources in four areas. The most important area we discovered is psychiatric care. It is very important to have a therapist that you can relate to and who is tailored to your specific needs. First, in collaboration with Dr. Ish Major of New York has assembled a pool of therapists that can be as diverse and transparent and available as the group of people they serve.

In addition to mental health resources, there are also some practical needs. Families often lose a breadwinner or are so devastated by the event that they cannot continue their normal work. So we have resources for financial planning. We work with various agencies that help families achieve financial stability in times of chaos and beyond.

In addition to therapy resources and financial planning resources, we seek to serve families in two other ways. The first is advocacy. Every family I have met is mainly concerned with the outcome of criminal and civil cases, that they can experience justice through our legal system. And so we associate them with activist groups and other patterns that we have seen help families actually achieve justice.

Then, finally, build the legacy of your loved one. Typically this is a foundation that helps the family create a foundation that reflects the character of the person they have lost and allows that foundation to continue to serve the community and the world like them believe that your loved one might have this.

How can someone support your work?

Merritt: When people are often looking for ways to give back, they really want to show their empathy and support for families who actually bear the brunt of this culture that we address. And they can serve families in their strengths. When I first got into this job, my area of ​​strength was law and it remains my area of ​​strength as a lawyer. But I found the family needed financial planning, which – I wasn’t the best person to take care of it.

At Limitless Resource, we connect families with individuals and organizations who can give them the financial resource planning they need, as well as the therapy, advocacy and heritage that foundation. If you are interested in giving back and you know that you can offer assistance in any of these four areas by joining Limitless Resource, you can become a resource for the family. The other thing people can do is donate to There is such a need for financial support for all of these services and these resources often go everywhere but the family and that is the goal of the entire organization.

What advice do you have for managers who want to support their employees and people in their personal lives through a crisis?

Merritt: We need to destigmatize the conservation of mental health resources. The truth is, it should be a normal part of our day, just as we focus on our diet or exercise. We should really focus on how to improve our sanity. Our spirit is with us. It’s part of our everyday choices and how we act in this world and we need to take better care of it.

And it’s okay to look around. It’s okay to say, “I’m looking for therapy, but the person I’m getting it from doesn’t meet my needs.” Many people feel ashamed, “Oh, I went to a doctor and they told me what to do and I didn’t agree with them. Maybe I am the problem. Maybe I am the hardest hit person on the planet. ‘And it’s just not true.

The last thing I would say, of course, is to make it personal. Mental health resources are something we all need, just as we need to nourish our bodies, just as we need to exercise. We need mental health resources to be a daily part of our routine. If I tell you it’s normal to go through this, it’s because I’ve been through it and we’ve all been through it and it’s okay to be wrong.

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