ARTICLE: The Last Taboo: Breaking Law Students with Mental Illnesses and Disabilities Out of the Stigma Straitjacket Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2010 Curators of the University of Missouri
UMKC Law Review

ARTICLE: The Last Taboo: Breaking Law Students with Mental Illnesses and Disabilities Out of the Stigma Straitjacket

Fall, 2010

UMKC Law Review

79 UMKC L. Rev. 123


Jennifer Jolly-Ryan*


I. Introduction

The number of people with illnesses, disorders, and disabilities in our society is huge. More than fifty million Americans are disabled, at least to some degree. 1 That equates to nearly twenty percent of all Americans. 2 Even more Americans, although not qualified as persons with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), suffer from a temporary or periodic disability, disorder, or illness during some time in their lives. 3 Although physical disabilities and illnesses usually come to mind when one thinks about legal protections and the availability of employment or educational opportunities, mental illnesses, disorders, and disabilities are just as prevalent in our society. Many people suffer from episodic or periodic mental illnesses or disorders during their lives. 4

Although professional treatment, counseling, and medication greatly mitigate the symptoms and adverse affects of many mental illnesses, disorders, and disabilities, people who suffer from them continue to be stigmatized and discriminated against. As a result, they often suffer significant hurdles to employment and educational opportunities. 5

Ironically, the very people who are in the best position to increase the number of lawyers who intimately understand the discrimination and health care laws in our society impose some of the highest hurdles to employment and educational opportunities. Lawyers stigmatize and often decline to hire other lawyers unless they have a clean mental health history-free of disabilities, disorders, and illnesses. 6

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