Following on from the piece we did recently for ITV News regarding Autism and suicide, I think the facts and statistics speak for themselves, 66% of people on the spectrum have contemplated suicide, that is an alarming figure.
We can all do our part in giving people a hand up
What we don’t yet fully understand is why the actual suicide rate is so high within the neurodivergent population, although I have a few theories of my own.
- Having watched my own children grow up with the challenges that autism can create, and knowing the degree of mental health difficulties they ALL face, I believe that a proportion of their struggles relate directly to the everyday challenges they have to deal with just having to understand, and be understood, in a world that they find hard to relate to. Autism can’t be ‘seen’ so it’s very difficult for ‘neurotypical’ (I hate that word, what is ‘Neurotypical’ anyway?) people to know that they may be having difficulty in communicating.
- A large number of people on the spectrum also have to contend with various sensory issues, constantly. It may be a sensitivity to sounds, smells, textures, the list is a very long one. What most of us don’t understand is that these sensitivities are not just irritating, the offending issue actually creates very real, agonising pain. My children have a variety of sensory challenges and I’ve witnessed them contort with pain at various inputs that they can’t cope with. While they are out in the wide world they have no way of controlling their environment so these problems can ambush them at any moment.
- Another challenge is that people on the spectrum need to know what’s going to happen next. They visualise everything in their heads, the problems occur when the reality doesn’t match their expectations, but, when does life ever pan out exactly the way we want it to? Most of us adapt readily to the vagaries of life, imagine not being able to do that?
- Another huge challenge for people on the spectrum is actually accessing the help they need. So many conventional therapies don’t work for them so even if they manage to ask for help in the first place, the likelihood of it helping them in real terms is very slim. Fortunately, Autistica is doing very real research with people on the spectrum to find strategies that actually help, long may they keep up the good work.
I’ve only briefly listed a few challenges above, but try for a moment to imagine living in a world where there are so many variables that you find so unmanageable that your life is lived at the highest end of anxiety at all times? We all experience stress, unfortunately, autistic people very often experience it on a totally different level, is it any wonder then that they often feel that they can’t cope any more?
The proportion of people living in our society with neurodivergent brains is actually very high, we need to be doing a lot more to create environments that they feel comfortable with. A quiet room in shopping centres, colleges etc…would go a long way towards offering a calm space to collect oneself before trying to continue.
Autistica are an amazing charity that fund research into ways to help people on the spectrum manage anxiety and understand their mental health challenges along with a huge amount of other very important research. If you would like to get involved with helping them you can join their ‘DISCOVER’ network to help them work with even more people so they can gain more insight, they already have 5000 people involved but the more the better.
We shouldn’t be losing lives to suicide and so much more needs to be done to help, let’s all join the army and shout for change….