When Tammi Monforton's teenage daughter had thoughts of suicide, the desperate mother reached out for help, but found long wait times instead. 

She called Maryvale, a mental health treatment centre in Windsor for children 13 to 17, and was told there was a six-week wait for an initial assessment. Following that, she was told, there was another eight-to-10-week wait for follow-up counselling. She then turned to the Teen Health Centre, where she was confronted with another long wait list. 

"There was a few nights where I was in my room by myself crying because you're heartbroken because you don't want your child to hurt in any way," said Monforton. "You do what you can and when you finally get to the point where you can't do anything more and you're reaching out for help and you're told 'oh yeah, here's help 12 weeks down the line.' You feel kind of lost and in despair."

Connie Martin, the executive director at Maryvale, acknowledged wait times are an issue but that it is difficult to keep pace with demand when provincial funding has only increased by eight per cent in 20 years. 

"The problem is more than the cracks, it's more like an earthquake." - Rick Saruna, counsellor with Body and Mind Natural Health

The Teen Health Centre offers walk-in treatment for youth 12 to 24 but there is a up to a 12-week wait for non-urgent follow-up counselling. While there is no wait list for follow up counselling at Family Services Windsor-Essex, it costs $50 to $95 per session if you don't have insurance.

'We definitely need more funding'

Rick Saruna, a counsellor with Body and Mind Natural Health, decried what he described as two-tier system, where those with money or insurance have access to quicker care.

"This is a serious problem. We definitely need more funding to have more services available," Saruna said. "The problem is more than the cracks, it's more like an earthquake."

Monforton is a single mother of four teenage children. Two of her daughters struggle with depression and anxiety. When one of her daughters cut her arm, Monforton took her to the emergency room. 

Monforton called local wait times for youth mental health services unacceptable and called for additional staff and increased funding. 

Jonathan Foster, the director of mental health and renal programs at Windsor Regional Hospital, said alleviating wait times would help reduce pressure on the emergency room, which has to deal with repeat patients.

"Where we have some major opportunity is repeat admission rates to the emergency department. So the people who come to the emergency department are treated, but then come back within 30 days," said Foster.

"That's where a real focus for all of us collectively in the community has to take place and that means making sure wait times are cut down and people have that ready access to those services in the community." 

Feeling distressed, depressed or suicidal? Help is available.  1) Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare operates a 24-hour crisis line: (519) 973-4435. For more information on the warning signs of suicide, visit their website. 2) The Distress Centre of Windsor and Essex County is open from noon to midnight 365 days a year and provides emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Contact them at 519-256-5000.