World Autism Awareness Day takes place on 2 April every year.
This is also the beginning of World Autism Month. At PAPYRUS, this is an opportunity to learn how we can better support children and young people with autism and create a world which works for them.
At HOPELINE247 we get many calls from young people who are either waiting for a diagnosis, have been diagnosed or are unsure they want a diagnosis. All of this, and coping with everyday life, can lead autistic people to feel suicidal and unsure of where to access help and support.
Unfortunately, suicide in the autism community has been severely under-researched until very recently.
There may be unique characteristics of autism that can add to a person’s vulnerability.
For example, autistic people with alexythmia may have difficulty putting their emotions into words. They may struggle to express how they’re feeling. As a result, some cases of depression may not be noticed by friends, family or professionals.
6 in 10
More than 6 in 10 autistic people have considered suicide
3 in 10
More than 3 in 10 autistic adults have attempted suicide
8 in 10
Almost 8 in 10 autistic adults have a mental health condition
Things to consider when talking to someone with Autism who may be feeling suicidal:
- For some people with autism, they may act in the short term – what will solve the problem right there and then. Reasons for living aren’t going to be long term things as these can be challenging to consider. Instead, the things that may keep someone alive will be immediate or in the short term e.g. something that day.
- To support someone we need to understand their core experience and motivations – what keeps them going, what keeps them alive. However, those on the spectrum are rarely in ‘crisis’ as we understand it. Often suicidal thoughts are there all the time, and suicide can appear a very logical and rational choice due to the factors contributing to their persistent thoughts. A person can regularly contemplate suicide as a logical way to end the distress and difficulties they face every day.
- We need to work with someone to find out what their interests are in order to engage them in a conversation. If we take calls on HOPELINE247 from people who share that they are autistic, we sometimes explore what they are good at, and what their interests are, or if they have something important coming up to attend.
- It is important to help someone identify ways they are needed – this can be very helpful in keeping them safe from suicide.
- When asking a question, allow enough time for the person to process the information and be able to answer.
- Keep your language clear and concise. Use open questions –what/when/where/who questions.
- If someone struggles to speak on the phone, try and suggest services which are available online or by text.
- Avoid using metaphors or colloquialisms during the conversation – keep your language and questions direct.
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or if you are concerned that someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, you can contact HOPELINE247 on phone, text or email.