Between 800 to 1,200 patients are on a waiting list to see a clinical psychologist at The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, with wait times as long as a year, according to hospital officials.
CHEO representatives said a rising awareness of mental health issues in the Ottawa area has led to more and more youth seeking medical aid. But the hospital is concerned it doesn't have the resources to deal with the avalanche of cases.
In October 2011, for example, there were 260 Emergency Room visits by mentally ill patients at CHEO, a 30-per-cent jump from the same month the previous year.
CHEO psychologist Simone Kortsee said she's seen more children with serious mental health problems than ever before. She said these children may have tried to commit suicide, they may be cutting themselves or be severely depressed.
She said the wait list is a concern.
"As a clinician I start to worry, this child is suicidal, depressed...and this child is on a year wait list."
Kortsee also worries some patients may be discharged before they're fully well to make room for other children.
CHEO chief executive officer Alex Munter said the increased demand is in part due to the increased awareness of the issue in the city.
This past October, the suicide of Jamie Hubley, an openly gay 15-year-old boy who committed suicide after battling depression and being bullied, attracted attention across North America.
And a year ago, the city also responded strongly to the suicide of 14-year-old Daron Richardson, a popular teen and the daughter of Ottawa Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson.
"As some of the issues of shame recede, that stigma recedes and it becomes easier to talk about those issues and more people recognize how essential it is for kids to get help they need," said Munter.
He said it's obvious more resources are needed but said governments are responding. Ontario recently committed $257 million to treat mental health in children, but how much would go toward CHEO is not yet known.
Munter is optimistic the hospital will be able to hire more crisis workers in the near future.