By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)
Autism Acceptance Week was an important time to focus on the struggles that people with autism face and to make sure that their voices are heard. However, it is also especially important to address a difficult topic: self-harm and suicide in individuals with autism.
Recent studies suggest that people on the autism spectrum are more likely to experience self-harm and suicidal ideation than their neurotypical peers. In fact, a 2017 meta-analysis of 15 studies revealed that people with autism are nine times more likely to die by suicide compared to those without.
The reasons for this increased risk are complex, but research suggests that it may be linked to challenges faced by individuals on the spectrum, such as higher rates of bullying, loneliness and social isolation. Many people with autism also experience significant mental health issues such as depression or anxiety that can lead to self-harm and suicidal ideation.
The good news is that there are steps we can all take to help those on the autism spectrum prevent self-harm and suicide. It’s important to create an environment where individuals feel comfortable talking about mental health and seeking help when they need it. Parents, teachers, therapists and other caregivers should be aware of the signs of self-harm and suicide in people with autism, such as isolating themselves, withdrawing from activities and expressing hopelessness or despair.
It’s also important to ensure that individuals on the spectrum have access to quality mental health care and support services. Organisations such as the National Autistic Society and the Autism Self-Advocacy Network are working hard to improve access to mental health services for people with autism.
Following Autism Acceptance Week, let’s take a moment to discuss the issue of self-harm and suicide in individuals with autism, as well as the steps we can take to help them. With increased awareness and access to quality services, we can make an impact on this serious issue that affects so many people on the autism spectrum.
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