A rise in anxiety cases among Vancouver teens coupled with difficulty accessing mental health help is troubling, experts say, warning anxiety can lead to depression, alcoholism and even suicide.

Since 2008 the number of visits to the BC Children’s Hospital anxiety clinic has increased by 31 per cent. During the same time mental health emergency visits have risen by a third.

With year-long waitlists for kids to access provincial mental health services, help can be hard to come by, which is very concerning for child psychologist Dr. Lynn Miller.

“If you have untreated anxiety the biggest problem will be high vulnerability to developing depression,” Miller said. “There are lots of poor outcomes for kids who don’t get attention with an anxiety problem.

“For psychological issues, especially in children, it’s a little bit more concerning for me because over time, the family doesn’t know how to cope with this.”

Symptoms of anxiety can include nausea, shortness of breath, blurry vision and can lead to problems with attending classes and making friends.

Ministry of Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the province is currently spending $94 million yearly on mental health programs but recognizes there is difficulty accessing services.

“We’re very aware that families are having difficulty accessing mental health supports for their children,” Cadieux said. “The reality is that we are facing increased demand for this service. In fact, we’re serving about 28,000 children a year at this time which is double the number in 2003.”

Cadieux said the province is currently looking at ways to realign services to better provide support to the areas that need it most.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mi-Jung Lee