Grieving Mother of 5 Seeks Answers After Son’s Suicide

Mother Says Son needed Mental Health Services Instead of Felony Prosecution by Yolo D.A.

(From Press Release) – Patti Pape – mother of recently-deceased UC Davis student Eric Pape – wants answers about why the Yolo County D.A.’s office pressed serious felony charges against her late son for an incident that occurred when he was having a panic attack while receiving treatment in a hospital.

“The D.A.’s office should have realized that this was a mental health case and should never have charged my son. I believe that the stress of his felony trial contributed to his eventual suicide,” she said.

Ms. Pape and a few others will make brief comments at rally this Thursday, May 17 at Noon at the UC Davis MU Patio.

According to family and friends Mr. Pape began struggling with depression and anxiety after transferring to UC Davis and sought treatment through student health services. After a suicide attempt in January 2017, Mr. Pape was taken to Sutter Hospital and placed on a psychiatric hold. While in the hospital Mr. Pape had a panic attack. Joshua Fuller, a nurse at the hospital, reported that he and Mr. Pape then had an altercation that resulted in Mr. Fuller’s shoulder being dislocated. After his hospitalization Mr. Pape successfully completed an intensive outpatient program at Sutter Health, and appeared to be doing fine according to friends and family.

The District Attorney’s office on behalf of Mr. Fuller charged Mr. Pape with felony battery, and refused to dismiss them even after learning of the circumstances of the incident. The case was still unresolved at the time of Mr. Pape’s death.

Ms. Pape finds these actions difficult to accept, noting: “He wasn’t in his right mind and would never intentionally hurt anyone. Eric needed mental health services but instead he was prosecuted for a felony.”

Yolo County Public Defender Tracie Olson recently expressed similar thoughts to the Davis Enterprise stating “If an individual strikes someone in the midst of a seizure, that individual would never be prosecuted. We’ve got to start viewing mental illness for what it is — a health condition that no one voluntarily signs up for.”

She went on to add that “Eric, the youngest of my five children, was studying Psychology at UC Davis and was planning to pursue a teaching credential. If he was found guilty of a felony his options would be limited for careers and the future. It was weighing heavily on him.”

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7 thoughts on “Grieving Mother of 5 Seeks Answers After Son’s Suicide”

  1. Cindy Pickett

    I just realized that Eric Pape was a student in a course I taught this past fall. It was a large course and so I didn’t know every student personally, but it saddens me to know that he was dealing with this at the time. I hope his mother gets answers.

  2. Jeff M

    Patti Pape needs to immerse herself in counseling to help deal with the suicide of her son.  Blaming others is a sign that she herself is struggling to productively deal with this tragic event in ways that are good for her own mental and emotional health.

    Typically it is the “if only I had _____” that torments a family or friend of a suicide victim.  And that leads to a natural emotional response of depression, anger and then a propensity to project the same questions about others.   It is a toxic chain reaction that needs to be broken.

    There is a differing opinion in the counseling for suicide related to the fault.  One message is that there is no fault.

    Most often, these forces are mental illness. By many accounts, 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness. Other forces besides mental illness also can cause suicide: trauma, stress, loss, and any other event or condition that creates excruciating pain.

    The forces of suicide cause irrational thoughts. They rob the person of the ability to see any possibility for change. They connive to make the person believe that suicide is the only way to end the pain.

    However, there is another message that only the victim of suicide is at fault.  I tend to support this latter view but with the added perspective that it was a mistake made and I forgive others for their mistakes where they had no malice to harm others.

    That is a difficult bridge to cross because the harm to others is profound.   From one view the suicide victim has taken the easy way out… left the living to carry a load that is now so much heavier.   I have been very angry at my family members that have committed suicide seeing the long-term pain they have caused everyone else.   But my healing was to get to a place where I could see that there was no malice intended.

    Clearly my family of suicide victims could not see anything beyond their own emotional/psychological pain.   One brother In-law killed himself while he was home with his two pre-teenage sons… with the oldest hearing the sound in the bedroom and having to discover it and call his mother who had left her husband’s side only this one time in over a year… not leaving due to concerns about his depression… but needing to care for her mother who was recovering from surgery.  I was originally so angry about what he had done to his sons and his wife and other family members.  There were stories about his boss being an a–hole and I was ready to drive there and confront the boss in blame.

    But that anger was a misplaced emotion to be replaced with sadness and processing of loss.  Next was my change of perspective to see his suicide as the outcome of a significant health malady… like the cerebral aneurysm that took one family member, and the brain cancer that took another.

    No DA could know because no human can read someone else’s mind.  Johansson is not a mind-reader either.  There was no malice here.  There was certainly a mistake… that was 100% owned by Eric.  But he deserves forgiveness for that mistake.

  3. Cindy Pickett

    JeffM – Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree that there is a tendency (as a likely coping mechanism) to assign blame. I think those affected are just trying to make sense of something that is very difficult to understand and very painful.

  4. David Greenwald

    “No DA could know because no human can read someone else’s mind.  Johansson is not a mind-reader either.  There was no malice here.  There was certainly a mistake… that was 100% owned by Eric.  But he deserves forgiveness for that mistake.”

    Let’s start with the facts.  First, he had already attempted to commit suicide.  While in the hospital for a 5150 there was an altercation between him and nurse – it didn’t have to be charged as criminal conduct, but was.

    Does it take a mindreader to question whether the right thing to do was continue to pursue felony criminal charges?  I’ll at least give Jonathan Raven credit for agonizing over those decisions, that’s more than I can say for some here.

    FWIW, I don’t think there was malice here.  I do think thing that the charging policies of the DA’s office are a problem and this time it contributed to this tragedy.

    1. Howard P

      “Contributed” is a key word… the original thread stongly implied “causation” … huge difference… folk who implied ‘causation’ need to own up to that… “back-pedalling” is BS.

      There was a ‘constellation’ of actions, and inactions, that resulted in the outcome… ultimately, only “one hand” caused (proximately) the outcome.  Maybe brutal, but true…

      Don’t have enough fingers and toes to point to those who ‘contributed’… either by action or inaction…

      Let’s learn from this… so it is less likely to repeat… the inactions, as it goes to interventions, etc., sure appear to predominate.

      Except one… which predominates (proximately)… one person’s actions and choice.

       

  5. Tia Will

    Jeff and Cindy

    I agree that there is a tendency (as a likely coping mechanism) to assign blame.”

    There is a difference in “assigning blame” with malice vs “assigning blame” in the spirit of debriefing in which the intent is to avoid similar outcomes in the future. By training, I am a firm believer in examining one’s own actions and systemic contributing factors to achieve better outcomes in the future.

    Our jails would be filled to far over capacity if every incident in which an L&D nurse or physician has been directly injured by an out of control laboring patient who is then charged with felony assault. Fortunately that is never done, unlike with this case. As Mr. Raven has concluded rightfully ( IMO) this was not the best approach and other approaches might have resulted in a better outcome. This is a lesson, which if heeded, might prevent similar poor outcomes in the future.

    1. Jeff M

      Tia: There is a difference in “assigning blame” with malice vs “assigning blame” in the spirit of debriefing in which the intent is to avoid similar outcomes in the future.

      David: I do think thing that the charging policies of the DA’s office are a problem and this time it contributed to this tragedy.

      You both act like God or some higher-order intellect that you can read another person’s crystal ball – in this case someone with significant mental health issues – and determine that if things had been done your way it would have resulted in a more positive outcome for them.  So now I get it.   In your opinion the DA wasn’t enough like you and your God-like intuitive selves and thus has under-performed.

      OK… but then what is your proof that Jonahsson possesses those God-like skills?

       

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