Suicide is a very serious problem. Recent statistics from Samaritans show that around 14 suicides happen in the UK every day. And sadly, it appears that autistic individuals are much more at risk of taking their own life. Let’s take a closer look at the issue, including why people with autism may be more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and what can be done to help anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Because even the smallest gesture can be enough to save a life. Download the PDF Understanding the link between autism and suicide It isn’t fully understood why people with autism have a higher risk of suicide, but it’s generally believed to stem from communication difficulties. When we can’t show or tell others how we feel, it can lead to feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Without being able to ask for help, suicide may seem like the only way out. UK-based autism charity Autistica asked autistic people why they think there are higher rates of suicide in autism. Their answers included: Autistic people are more likely to suffer from mental health issues like depression and anxiety Many people with autism aren’t diagnosed until later in life, and struggle in silence until then Autistic people find it difficult to access support Autistic people are more likely to have poor physical health There is a high rate of unemployment among autistic people Warning signs of suicide in autistic individuals Because of their struggles with expression, autistic people who feel suicidal may not show the typical signs and symptoms. It’s important to keep a look out for any changes in their mood, habits, or behaviour. They may: Start making preparations, like buying medication or giving away their belongings Lose weight or stop eating Stop taking care of themselves Seem distressed and act recklessly Offering help and support Naturally, if you suspect that an autistic person may be considering suicide, you’ll want to offer them support. There are a few key ways that you can help to comfort them: Trying to communicate with them By expressing how we feel, we’re more able to work through a difficult situation. Non-verbal individuals can find this particularly tough, but by utilising tools like flash cards and sign language, you can make them feel heard. Promoting positive coping strategies Navigating emotions and stress can be particularly confusing for autistic people, but there are coping strategies that can help. For instance, something as simple as a hobby can be enough to distract them from negative thought patterns. Few things are as invaluable as a support network in maintaining a person’s emotional wellbeing, so try to be a calm, non-judgmental presence for them. Putting them in contact with a professional Depending on the severity of the case, you might be better seeking the help of a professional. Obviously 999 is the number to call in an emergency, but otherwise your GP should be able to help. They can refer the autistic person to crisis services and therapies, or offer medication like antidepressants if necessary. They may also suggest you contact mental health charities like Papyrus (for people under 35) or Samaritans. Download the PDF Giving autistic and non-verbal children a voice Being able to communicate with others is crucial for anyone dealing with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. However, autistic and non-verbal children can find self-expression a struggle. We think that social interaction is a basic human right, so we set to work on app2vox. A completely free app for tablet and smartphone, it’s packed with useful tools like phrase building, text-to-speech, and intuitive icons. You can read more about how the app works and register your interest to stay up to date with our progress. If you’d like to read more about things like water sensory play for autistic children, and how to handle meltdowns, we also have more helpful articles just like this one over in our resources. Other Resources Autism and mental health Understanding autism and mental health, what types of mental health struggles an autistic person is prone to and how you can support them. Understanding autism and emotions Autism can pose challenges for mediating emotions in people on the autistic spectrum. We discuss the subject here. Understanding meltdowns Understanding meltdowns in autistic people. What meltdowns are, how they are caused and how to support someone experiencing sensory overload.