Dawson Creek family struggles to find mental health help for 8-year-old son

Tyson Giesvrecht on the swing set in his backyard

Tyson Giesvrecht is 8 years old, and ever since he was 3, his parents have been trying to get him help for his mental health.

“Tyson has what we believe is some serious behavioral issues and mood swings, which cause Tyson not to think about what he’s doing and he becomes very erratic,” says his mother Crystal Laarz.

Tyson has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. It’s a disorder with some symptoms similar to autism. Tyson has trouble with changes to his schedule, and doesn’t like loud noises or bright lights. When he’s upset, he can act out or get aggressive.

“So we’ve had to reach out to RCMP to get him to the hospital at those times,” says Crystal.

Tyson’s parents say they spent two years on a waitlist for counselling through the province’s Child & Youth Mental Health Services.

Last year, a doctor referred Tyson for assessment at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. The family spent four weeks there.

“We were promised all these supports when we get back – ‘you’re going to have him seeing a counsellor every week. If he starts escalating, there’s going to be somebody there for you,’” says Tyson’s father Trenten Laarz. “But at the end of the day, we get home and we’re told, ‘Oh, there’s nobody there.’”

They say they reached out to the Ministry of Children and Family Development and were told there were no resources available for them. Hospital visits, social worker visits, and counselling sessions have all been frequently cancelled.

Even nurses and doctors have told them there’s nothing they can do.

“We’ve had professionals tell us to pack up and move to a bigger city,” says Crystal.

Next week, they’ll be heading back to Vancouver for another four weeks to get Tyson re-assessed.

Northern Health refused to make anyone available for direct comment. Instead, they issued a broad statement, saying, “upon discharge, Northern Health works with partner agencies to ensure appropriate community resources and supports are in place.”

But the family says they don’t qualify for those supports. Instead, they’ll be footing the bill themselves to make the trip with their three kids.

On top of that, Tyson had to be taken out of school around a month ago due to safety concerns. Trenten had to leave work to stay home with him, meaning the family is now losing half their income.

“I am stressed and I am frustrated, and I feel like if there was more support and resources – for not just our family, but other families – that maybe we wouldn’t be sitting in this situation,” says Crystal. 

Meanwhile, Tyson has a message for other kids who might be going through the same thing.

“You’re not alone if you have mental health,” says Tyson. 

Tyson's family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the travel costs. Donations can be made here.