Criminal Justice

Lawyer says her experience with bipolar disorder is reason for appointment to Sandy Hook commission

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Just one lawyer has been appointed to a group making policy recommendations after the Sandy Hook school shootings, but she says her legal background was not the reason she got the nod.

Kathleen Flaherty says Connecticut’s governor appointed her because she has bipolar disorder, the Connecticut Law Tribune reports. “I was asked to be there as a person with mental illness,” Flaherty told the publication.

Adam Lanza has been identified as the suspect who fatally shot his mother, then 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Some news reports have suggested Lanza may have been mentally ill.

Flaherty, a Harvard law grad, represents low-income people in her job with Statewide Legal Services. She was diagnosed in law school after a concerned resident adviser reported Flaherty’s offhand threat to jump off the roof of the law library, the story says. Flaherty’s psychiatrist, who had already been urging Flaherty’s hospitalization, called an ambulance. The hospital petitioned for a grant of civil commitment and obtained it.

Flaherty has found a combination of medication that works and says her illness is not a problem on a day-to-day basis. She also takes care to eat right, sleep well, manage her stress, and spend time with family and friends. Flaherty says she hopes to use her position on the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission to help ease the stigmas associated with mental illness.

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