Autistic people are at high risk of mental health problems, self-injury and suicidality. However, no studies have explored autistic peoples’ experiences of treatment and support for these difficulties. In partnership with a steering group of autistic adults, an online survey was developed to explore these individuals’ experiences of treatment and support for mental health problems, self-injury and suicidality for the first time. A total of 200 autistic adults (122 females, 77 males and 1 unreported) aged 18–67 (mean = 38.9 years, standard deviation = 11.5), without co-occurring intellectual disability, completed the online survey. Thematic analysis of open-ended questions resulted in an overarching theme that individually tailored treatment and support was both beneficial and desirable, which consisted of three underlying themes: (1) difficulties in accessing treatment and support; (2) lack of understanding and knowledge of autistic people with co-occurring mental health difficulties and (3) appropriate treatment and support, or lack of, impacted autistic people’s well-being and likelihood of seeing suicide as their future. Findings demonstrate an urgent need for autism treatment pathways in mental health services.
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FunderThis work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number ES/N000501/2), Autistica (grant number 7247) and a research pump prime from Coventry University (received by S.C.). S.B.-C. was supported by the Autism Research Trust, the MRC, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East of England at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, and the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking under grant agreement no. 115300, resources of which are composed of financial contribution from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) and EFPIA companies’ in kind contribution. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. The funders had no role in the data collection, analysis or interpretation or any aspect pertinent to the study or publication. The corresponding author has full access to the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.
- Autism spectrum condition
- mental health
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology