Healthy Living

Autism: Getting a Handle on Suicide

One example

Researcher Katherine Gotham recounts in a recent article the experience she had with a young man who experienced autism and also expressed suicidal thoughts, but did not indicate any of the typical signs of depression. She notes that when he talked about killing himself, it was a very matter-of-fact possibility. He noted that if he did not achieve his career goals by a certain age, he would kill himself. Gotham recounts that she only discovered his suicidal thoughts after asking him directly whether he had ever thought about killing himself. She expected him to say no because of his overall behavior. Some autistic individuals may think in such a rigid and black-and-white paradigm that suicide is essentially a possible life choice rather than an emotional response. That isn’t to say that suicidal thoughts are completely detached from emotions. They are not. Even in the young man’s case Gotham noted that there were a number of external factors in his life that could contribute to depression, but it does mean that an individual may not express these thoughts emotionally.