Flaherty said many of those clients also suffer from mental illness. "With the struggles my clients face, I don't see why they wouldn't be depressed," said Flaherty.
In her own time, Flaherty volunteers for the Connecticut chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. She has done presentations for the group about what she's gone through. She leads support groups and also trains other people to lead them. And she's gone to schools to speak to teachers about how to recognize early signs of mental illness in children.
Plenty busy, Flaherty is on the board of the Connecticut chapter of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, as well as the board of Advocacy Unlimited, a group that offers education and training for persons with, or in recovery from, mental health disorders.
What Flaherty has endured, and what she knows about mental illness, is what she plans to bring to the table with the commission formed in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Other members include Norwalk's fire chief, the University of Connecticut police chief, a Newtown teacher and several college professors and psychiatric professionals.
Late last week, Flaherty said that the group has not yet met, nor has she received any materials from Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, who will chair the panel. The committee will report its findings by March 15, in time for the state legislature to act on any proposals.
In speaking with other commission members, Flaherty plans to try to erase certain "stigmas" associated with mental illness. For instance, she says just because you have a bipolar disorder does not mean you're violent.
When it comes to what happened in Newtown and her feelings about it, Flaherty isn't ready to open up yet. Nor does she have a set agenda in mind for possible reforms.
"I don't want to say anything at this point other than it was a terribly sad event that none of us would ever want to see happen," said Flaherty. "It sounds trite to say bring good out of something terrible but I hope that's the end result of this."
Christian Nolan writes for The Connecticut Law Tribune, a Daily Report affiliate.