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After Losing Her Son to Suicide, Mother Fights for More Mental Health Funding

DAVIS -- On Thursday at UC Davis, a Southern California mom spoke out to call for changes in the mental health system in Yolo County and across the country after she lost her son to suicide.

Patti Pape joined students and others at UC Davis, where her son Eric was a student. Eric suffered from severe depression and anxiety.

He was also facing a felony battery charge from an alleged attack on a nurse while in the hospital in 2017. The nurse suffered a broken shoulder. Eric’s mother said he was having a panic attack, and hospital officials should have been able to deescalate the situation.

Eric hanged himself earlier this month. His mom says the stress of the felony charge was just too much.

Pape says the entire criminal justice system let her son down.

"This dehumanization of defendants has to stop now. It is apparent to me that my son was not treated properly in a medical setting with the dignity and respect that other sick patients get. Consequently, he was not treated with dignity and respect by the criminal justice system," Pape said.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Pape and others are asking for more money to be spent on helping people with mental illness.

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office said the prosecutor had been working to drop the charges to a misdemeanor at the time of Eric's death.

FOX40 received a statement from Yolo County Chief Deputy D.A., Jonathan Raven that said:

"Mental illness does not give people a free ticket to commit crimes but we have to address these cases much differently; with empathy and understanding. The public defender, judges and the DA's office need to do a better job of flagging these cases earlier and use the tools we have to help people with mental illness."