People with Autism Spectrum Disorders have long been known to be susceptible to depression. In some cases, this can lead to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. A lot of people with Autism unfortunately have to endure heightened amounts of stress, difficulties in initiating and maintatining friendships and romantic relationships and bullying. In addition to these, not everyone with Autism are equipped with the necessary coping strategies tocombat these negative life events. As a result, these events may lead to derpession and suicidal tendencies.
A research conducted by Mayers, Gorman, Hillwig-Garcia and Syed (2013) found that 14% of people with Autism aged 1-16 have thougth about committing suicide and a large number of them actually attempted to kill themselves. This is an alarming statistic considering the age of the participants. It is therefore important to recognise the signs and react appropriately when they occur.
There are a few common signs that indicate that a person may be at risk of committing suicide.
- Saying things like ‘I am better off dead’- Yes, it is pretty obvious, but a lot of peopl take these kinds of statements lightly.
- Being withdrawn.
- Drug abuse
- Engaging in extremely violent behaviour
- Effective communication- Listening to the person’s perspective is very important. Understand what they are thinking and feeling (hard as it may be for them to communicate). Avoid aggressively confronting them or threatening them as this will only aggrevate the situation.
- Remove potential means of suicide
- Monitor their emotional state as much as possible
- Seek professional help
The whole point of this article is to open your eyes to the unfortunate possibility (and high likelihood) that a person with Autism may be depressed and could be thinking about committing suicide. It is important for them to have a secure and open relationship with the people around them. Whether you are a parent, teacher, carer or a friend of a person with Autism, you can help reduce their risk of depression just by being there for them. Be patient with them and make sure that they communicate their feelings with you. Never ever ignore any signs of loneliness or unexplained aggressive behaviours. Remember that they need our support and guidance.
Mayes, S.D., Gorman, A.A., Hillwig-Garcia, J. & Syed, E. (2013). Suicide Ideation and Attempts in Children with Autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(1), 109-119.