A family in rural Cape Breton is trying everything they can to keep their child from running away.

Police have been called to find the 13-year-old boy 12 times in the last three years.

On many occasions, search and rescue crews had to be called to look for the boy.

In February, the boy ran away and was found suffering from hypothermia.   

Staff Sgt. Ken O’Neil, with Cape Breton Regional Police, said the boy was in serious danger when he wandered away from home this winter.

"My understanding, hypothermia had set in and that was quite a concern. On a risk assessment that was very high. We could have very easily had a tragic circumstance there," he said.

The teen lives with his father and stepmother. His stepmother says when the boy runs, their life stops.

"There's a lot of emotion. Time stands still and it can be a lot, mentally and emotionally," she said.

The CBC is not using the family's names to protect their privacy.

Mental health issues

The boy's stepmother says he has mental health issues and that's what leads to him run away. She won't say what exactly his mental health issues are, only that he is getting professional help.

The boy is also a part of Project Lifesaver and wears a radio transmitting tracking device.

"If my husband and I could do more, we would do more. We have everything in place. We're not a side show, we're just an average family that gets up in the morning and puts on our pants like everybody else. It's just we have a child with mental health issues," she said         

The boy’s stepmother said she wants people to stop judging him.

"There's a mental health issue, it’s being dealt with, it’s an ongoing issue, we’re doing the best we can. We have all the support systems in place within the school. He has support within the family. We have Project Lifesaver. Just leave him alone,” she said.

The stepmother was reluctant to talk with CBC, but felt it was important to let people know the challenges faced by families coping with mental health issues.