Autism Spectrum Condition itself is not classified as a mental health condition. But there is a link between the two. It’s known that autistic people are more likely to develop mental health conditions.
An added mental health condition can enhance and intensify pre-existing autistic traits – therefore it is essential to have support in place. It is crucial to have mental health services for autistic young people and adults to help with the stresses and strains of mental health as well as daily life.
For me, my mental health has never been perfect. I’ve had difficulties dating back to my high school experiences. This is my story.
Throughout high school I was quiet. I was lost in the crowd, in a place I felt wasn’t right for me. Academically I was behind. This had a significant effect on my mental health. Alongside this my body was changing, resulting in my self-esteem being fragile, adding to the problems I had with my mental state. I camouflaged my behaviour throughout the school day and exploded the minute I got home. I was an emotional mess. I was anxious, restless and unhappy. I felt as though I was alone and there was no support for me. I had days where I’d cry so much my mum had no other option but to let me stay home (some days I refused to get out of bed), my anxiety was at an all-time high and I felt I was unable to cope at school, yet my cries went unnoticed as to everyone I ‘looked normal’.
At 16, I had a better understanding of who I was as a person; although I still felt lost in a foreign country in a world which wasn’t made for me. I knew I was different but I couldn’t understand why. At 17 I discovered my own personal style, bright colours, skinny jeans and paperclip jewellery – I stuck out, but this was me. In my own head I felt lost, but to the outside world I was a confident happy teenager.
Since 2014, when I left employment, my mental health rapidly declined and I was diagnosed with depression. Since then I’ve had multiple stints of therapy, along side being assessed for Schizophrenia. In 2017 I was diagnosed with Autism and with this everything fell into place and made sense for me. However, to this day I still have a constant battle with my mental health, some days are better than others.
Here are some shocking statistics relating to Autism and Mental health:
“80% of Autistic Adults experience Mental Health issues during their lifetime” – Autistica
“Studies have shown high rates of suicidal thoughts (10.9% – 66%), and suicidal behaviours (11% – 30%) in adults and children with autism. Between 7.3% – 15% of people who have been hospitalised for attempted suicide also have an autism diagnosis. This is much higher than the 1% rate of autism diagnosis we would expect in the general UK population” – Dr Sarah Cassidy (2015)
The majority of services tend to treat people for their Autism Spectrum Condition or their mental health condition, failing to recognise the complex dynamic between the two. Therefore it is vital for all mental health practitioners to undergo mandatory Autism Awareness Training, sadly, this is not always followed through.
The #AutismMentalHealth Campaign is to raise awareness and promote an understanding of the mental states of those on the spectrum, with an aim for services to establish the link between Autism and Mental Health Conditions and provide support accordingly. We need consistency and specialist support in both fields.
You can sign the petition here: Petition for better mental health services for people with an ASC.
You can also follow the campaign on social media using the hashtag #AutismMentalHealth!