Special Report

Calgary family desperate for mental health help

Some Calgary families say when it comes to finding help for young people with mental health problems they feel like they are on their own.

'There's a lot of desperate families out there, seeking help and not getting it,' says expert

Some Calgary families are finding the mental health care system for youth hard to navigate. 3:08

After searching for more than a year, one Calgary family says they feel like they are on their own after not being able to find the right help for their son with mental health problems.

Kiefer Jackson, who just turned 19, suffers from psychosis and is addicted to marijuana.

He has been in and out of hospital.

"I started to hear voices telling me they were going to kill me and stuff," he said.

His mom, Kim Jackson, says getting the right help for her son is a constant battle.

"This last year, it's heartbreaking," she said.

Kiefer Jackson has been diagnosed with psychosis. (CBC)

"He can't go to school. He can't work. His life is on hold. He's not getting better," his father Kevin Jackson added.

When Kiefer was hospitalized last year, his parents were told to look online for help by a doctor who wouldn't discuss his case — despite the fact he was 17. He was turned away from a treatment program by another doctor because of his drug use.

"It makes me sick to say it but honestly I wish he had cancer. I wish he had something else, something where we would get help and we'd have compassion," Kim said.

System hard to navigate

The Jacksons say their son is now being seen once a month at the Foothills hospital where he is asked a few questions and given medication to treat his psychosis.

But they say nobody has given them an overall treatment plan and he is not improving.

"It's just this vicious cycle," said Kim. "You're never moving, you're never progressing unless you're fighting all the time, fighting, fighting, fighting, begging [and] crying."

George Ghitan with Hull Services says there isn't enough co-ordination between services.

"I think there's a lot of desperate families out there, seeking help and not getting it," he said.

Ghitan also says it's a complicated system and hard to navigate in terms of where to go.

Kim says the family isn't just fighting a complex system but also against time.

"We have a fear that he will gain insight and think what the heck is the point," she said about her son. "That's why we're relentless or so fierce about trying to find help."

The Jacksons say they'll keep searching so Kiefer can heal and start to feel as though his life has purpose.

"Because right now he doesn't," Kim said. "He's empty. He doesn't have any hope."