A Nova Scotia mother who refused to leave a hospital for 12 hours until a psychiatrist saw her 10-year-old son says more needs to be done to help children suffering from mental health crises.

Lori Atta from New Glasgow, N.S. said her son has struggled with mental health for years, and the family has visited the emergency room for treatment before. But his behaviour became especially alarming on Tuesday, and when she tried to drive him to hospital, he attempted to jump out of the car.

An ambulance then rushed the boy and his mother to IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where Atta said she was told that her son would have to wait until later to book an appointment with a psychiatrist.

“I said, ‘If you send me home, you grab that pen and paper right now, let’s write his obituary,’” Atta told CTV Atlantic.

Atta wouldn’t leave the hospital until her son got an appointment with a psychiatrist. Twelve hours later, he was admitted to the hospital’s Centre for Child Mental Health.

Even so, she said the solution is only temporary, and that she’s worried about what will happen once her son is discharged.

“It’s a Band-Aid at the moment unless they can offer me support,” she said.

The boy’s father made an impassioned plea in a video on Facebook, which has since been shared nearly 1,000 times. In the video, Paul Atta describes his son as “a danger to himself” and said he’s been hospitalized three times in the last week.

“The system doesn’t care,” Paul Atta said. “Why, in this day and age, in a country like Canada, can a 10-year-old boy be as vulnerable as he is?”

The hospital responded to the incident in a statement.

“All patients who present at the IWK emergency department are seen and assessed by appropriate health experts including physicians and/or mental health clinicians. Following a clinical assessment, the most appropriate treatment plans are discussed with the patient and family members,” said Nick Cox, senior advisor of government relations and issues management at the hospital.

The family’s situation also drew response from Nova Scotia PC Leader Tim Houston, the MLA for the family’s riding. Houston said the case illustrates a deeper problem in Nova Scotia.

“The system is failing so many people across the province. This is one family that I know from my own constituency, but I know there’s thousands of families that are living the same nightmare,” Houston said.

“I can’t even imagine as a parent to put myself in those situations.”

Young Canadians appear to be visiting hospitals much more for mental health issues. A report published last month by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found a 65 per cent jump in mental health-related hospitalizations for those aged five to 24 over the last decade. 

The report also found a 75 per cent increase in mental health-related emergency room visits among young people.