In order to ensure those with sensitive dispositions or previous trauma are not upset, I am starting this blog with a trigger warning. This blog discusses the astronomically high rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide in Autistic individuals. Please do not read if this is a trigger for you!
For almost as long as Autism has been a diagnosis, doctors and scientists have believed Autistic people do not suffer from depression and are not at risk for dying by suicide due to a lack of social awareness and theory of mind. This led to years of lack of support. Coupled with a lack of acceptance, forced masking and abuse, the rate of Autistics who die by suicide has become terrifying.
Look at those in your life who are Autistic. They have a current life expectancy of 54 years. Why?! Autism isn’t fatal. There’s no disease that Autism brings to a person. The reason is suicide. In general, Autistic people are 5 times more likely to die by suicide than any other group in the general population. The higher the individual’s intelligence and lack of intellectual disabilities, the higher the risk. The highest risk person in the world to die by suicide is….
An Autistic female with no intellectual disabilities and an average to high IQ.
Unlike other populations, Autistic people have a very high attempt to completion rate and use violent means regardless of gender. However, death by gun is low in Autistics. However, the methods used are just as fatal.
I am one of those who failed. Over my teen years through my forties, I made several attempts. I’m glad now that I failed, but it’s led to a passion for making the world better for Autistic people. Through the research, I’ve also begun to reach out to keep my children alive. What led me, and so many others, to attempt to end our lives? Research and personal experiences may have the keys.
In a word, acceptance. A lack of acceptance, lack of support and respect, and a lack of understanding of Autistic people and their uniqueness contribute to a person feeling devalued, alone, misunderstood, and hopeless. Furthermore, research is now showing many of the traditional treatments for depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior can actually make things worse for Autistics. I have personally found this to be true. Traditional therapy only serves to trigger my tendency to perseverate and pushes my focus negative by repeatedly discussing past and current traumas. The advice to step away, focus on my thoughts have led to spiraling anxiety and depression.
Additionally, social isolation and bullying create a horrible storm in the lives of Autistic people. Children who are Autistic are bullied at astronomically high rates. 60% have been bullied over several years by other children and adults. Constant bullying like this leads to severe anxiety and PTSD but it’s frequently ignored as them ‘just being Autistic’ or, in those with higher intellectual capacity, they are actually blamed for the bullying and pushed to ‘just act normal ‘. This spiral continues into adulthood where years of faking, pretending, and being mistreated take their toll.
Science is finally paying attention. However, despite knowing the harm that masking, ignoring co-morbidity with depression and anxiety, mistreatment, and harmful therapies are causing, there is a continued lack of acceptance and refusal to change.
We need to speak out for our lives, the lives of our kids. If people would accept that their way isn’t the only way, that neurodiversity brings so many benefits, that we are perfect as we are, even though we are different, we could save lives.