This post is going to talk about autism and suicide. It can be a bit of an intense topic for some of you, but it is important to know more about the struggle of people with autism and how we can support them.
Suicide means thoughts and behaviours with the intent to end life. In autistic people, self-harm is common in childhood. It is associated with repetitive behaviour such as head banging or biting. They also experience more suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviours compared to the general population and psychiatric groups. Autistic children are 28 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide. It is a leading cause of early death in the autistic community.
Why Are Autistic People More At Risk Of Suicide
It is because they experience many risk factors which could lead them to consider taking their own life. Risk factors include:
High levels of unemployment
Poor physical conditions
More vulnerable to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Lack of social network
Lack of social and mental health services
Cognitive style e.g, perfectionism, black and white thinking
We all know that routine is very important for autistic people. It helps them to reduce anxiety by knowing what to expect in the day. However, with so many changes and uncertainties happening around us, 85% of 4,232 autistic people reported that their anxiety levels had gotten worse. They felt more lonely and did not know how to manage their mental health, reported by the National Autistic Society. On top of that, the rates of suicidal thoughts in the UK population have increased during the initial lockdown, especially among young adults with mental health problems.
Even for people without autism, we do struggle to stay positive sometimes because we do not know when the pandemic will be over. However, autistic people might have experienced more struggles and challenges than us. Just imagine wearing a face mask, this can trigger their anxiety because they are sensitive to the touch and smell of a face covering.
When autistic people feel anxious, depressed or even suicidal, they may not show signs that people normally expect. This is due to their differences in communicating and interacting with others. Some autistic people are nonverbal, some of them speak only a small amount of words. They might not want to talk about their suicidal thoughts. They may find it difficult to express their thoughts and feelings even if they want to. It is one of the reasons why autistic people are more likely to die by suicide.
Three Little Birds and The Me Project will be doing a Podcast and webinars on Thursday 10 Dec. and Sun 13 Dec. We will talk more about the struggles people with autism have experienced during covid-19, signs of their mental health difficulties, and how we can support them. Please stay tuned if you are interested!
If an autistic person tells you that they feel suicidal, please take it seriously and help them. For everyone who is reading this post, with and without autism, if you feel like your life is not worth living. Please reach out for help. There will always be someone who cares about you and willing to help. Drop us a message if you need advice or support.