A regular shortage of hospital beds on P.E.I. for young people needing psychiatric treatment has led to some frantic days and nights for at least one family.

'They wouldn't receive the full spectrum of services that they would receive on Unit 9.' - Pam Trainor, Health PEI

There are currently four psych beds for youth on P.E.I., in Unit 9 of Charlottetown's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Pam Trainor, executive director of mental health for Health PEI, told CBC News those beds are always full, and there are usually one or two overflow patients in the hospital's pediatric unit.

One mother told CBC News recently her daughter spent a week under suicide watch in the pediatric unit before a bed opened up in Unit 9. She said her daughter suffers from severe depression, and often when the family has tried to have her admitted in the past they've been told there's no room.

She said her daughter has attempted suicide multiple times. Her daughter is asking for help, she said, and she's not getting it when she needs it.

"She's asking please help me," she told CBC News. "My child is begging to stay alive. But every time they turn her around it's another nail in the coffin basically, that she tries to harm herself even farther."

Trainor admitted the situation with overflow patients going to the pediatric unit is not ideal.

"They wouldn't receive the full spectrum of services that they would receive on Unit 9 in the adolescent unit because that's a specialty unit for mental health care. Probably the main one would be group therapy," said Trainor.

"They do receive mental health services when they're in the pediatric unit. So as soon as they're admitted they would receive psychiatry services, psychology services, social work services. (But) they wouldn't receive the full spectrum of services."

Trainor said some youth are also admitted to the ER while waiting for a bed in Unit 9 to open up.

Health PEI says demand for youth psych services is up about 20 per cent over the last three to four years, although didn't provide specific numbers. Trainor said Health PEI is reviewing to determine whether the current four youth beds are enough, but noted there is no space in Unit 9 to add more.

Health PEI is also trying to enhance mental health services in the community, so fewer young people end up in hospital in the first place.