Healthy Living

Experts Say New Autism Study Is a Shocking Wake-Up Call

Experts Say New Autism Study Is a Shocking Wake-Up Call

Individuals with autism or Asperger’s may face symptoms such as increased stress, difficulty coping with emotions, and difficulty maintaining social relationships. Without support, some may even find themselves withdrawing from society, on the brink of suicide.

Suicide rates among individuals with autism have reached increasingly shocking levels. Researchers state that the issue remains to be poorly understood and a call of action is necessary in order to help those who are at a greater risk.

Dr. Sarah Cassidy, research associate at Coventry University’s Centre for Research in Psychological, Behaviour, and Achievement in the UK, mentioned a study she led back in 2015, in which results revealed that 66% of adults with newly diagnosed Asperger's syndrome reported having suicidal thoughts. In the same study, 35% of participants reported to having planned or attempted suicide and 45% reported to experiencing depression.

A similar study conducted in Sweden in 2016 revealed that suicide is a main cause of premature death among individuals with ASD.

“What relatively little we know about suicide in autism points to a worryingly high prevalence of people with the condition contemplating and attempting to take their own life. More concerning still, the small body of research that does exist exposes serious shortcomings in how prepared we are to intervene and provide effective support to those with autism who are most at risk of dying by suicide. There are significant differences, for example, in the risk factors for suicide in autism compared with the general population, meaning the journey from suicidal thoughts to suicidal behaviors might be quite different. The models we currently consider best practice for assessing and treating suicidality need to be rethought for those with autism, and policy adjusted accordingly so new approaches are reflected across services,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“This unique event is of huge importance. For the first time researchers and clinicians from the fields of autism and suicide research will come together, along with members of the autism community and those bereaved by suicide, to learn from each other and identify clinical and research priorities to address this urgent issue,” said Dr. Jacqui Rodgers, co-author and autism researcher at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience.

“For years society and the healthcare system have ignored the voices of families who have lost autistic loved ones unnecessarily, and far too young. Recent research revealing the sheer scale of the problem proves that we cannot let that continue. National and local government, research funders and industry, as well as the NHS and service providers all have a responsibility to tackle the issue of suicide in autism. Autistica is committed to playing a major part by funding mental health research programmes. This suicide summit will kick-start our campaign for change in this severely overlooked area,” said Jon Spiers, chief executive of autism at Autistica, a research charity.

Read on to learn more about this link, and current initiatives being taken.