Subsequently David's tongue started curling over. For two days he was agitated and couldn't sit still, much less sleep. They called the doctor, who had no explanation. David became distraught with anxiety. He knelt on the floor pounding his fists into it. Ellen inspected the pills in the refill and noticed they were a different color than in the original prescription. She called Osco and finally determined that the bottle contained 5-milligram pills instead of 0.5 milligrams. Whoever filled the bottle had misread the label. Rather than 1 milligram of medication a day, David had inadvertently been dosed with 10 milligrams.

The next day David made a superficial attempt to slash his wrists. Several weeks later, though, he swallowed nearly a full bottle of antidepressants. He was briefly hospitalized at Harbor UCLA after each of these incidents.

Dr. Stephen Seager worked at the same Harbor UCLA hospital emergency room that David and his father waited in for David to be admitted to the mental health ward. Originally an internist when he worked on the ER unit, what Seager witnessed there convinced him to change his discipline and become a psychiatrist. While the study of schizophrenia has become his specialty -- he has written a book, "Street Crazy," on the subject -- he is an outspoken critic of our country's mental health system and moral values when it comes to treating the mentally ill.

Seager states, "Schizophrenia is brain disease plain and simple. It used to be thought it was psychological, the way you were brought up or some way you were thinking. It's not. It's a degenerative, dementing disease of the brain. It's very similar, in fact it's almost identical, to Alzheimer's disease, except that you get it at a younger age.

"From the time people get severe schizophrenia, when they first get sick till five or so years later, they tend to lose 40 to 50 IQ points. You start with 100, which is average; you end up with 60 or 50. These are the people we are allowing to walk around the streets and die in the parks and live in our jails. Those are all somebody's children, somebody's brother, somebody's wife or husband."

Seager thinks current anti-psychotic medications, if given early enough, may stop this decline in brain function. But he blames poorly conceived laws for limiting treatment options. "In California it's called the Lanterman-Petrus-Short Act -- a state law enacted in 1968. The law said that you can no longer admit people to a mental hospital for medical reasons -- you could only do it for legal reasons. They had to be going to murder somebody or commit suicide or be unable to care for their needs -- feed themselves or maintain adequate shelter.

"Over the years the court has interpreted 'unable to care for their needs' as 'It's OK to eat garbage from a Dumpster as long as you know that garbage with maggots in it is bad.' And adequate shelter is considered living underneath a car -- an abandoned car. Not in it, but underneath it.

"We're the only country in the history of the world -- ever -- that has denied treatment to the mentally ill. And specifically just flat said, 'No. If you have this disease you can't get treatment.' We simply choose to ignore it. I just couldn't do it anymore. To me it's a major moral issue up there with the all-time ones, slavery and the Holocaust.