Autism and Depression
The reality of depression and autism became inherently clear the other day. While I’ve always been aware of the corrections between the two, it wasn’t until someone I knew took her own life. Allison was 39, and turning 40 in just a few days. She had a love for photography, and loved collecting Funkos. She was one of a kind, and her kindness was immeasurable. Allison was very open about the fact she had Aspergers, and loved sharing her perspective with the world through her blog. She often talked about the adversities she faced being a woman on the spectrum, and the misconceptions that followed her.
A common theme she spoke of was her crippling depression and anxiety, and how it felt some what like a personal prison.
While her passing came to me as a surprise, I knew she had previously attempted to take her life. She often said how she wished there were more mental help and services for adults with autism, and prayed for acceptance and a better world. She expressed this as well in her Autism Story feature. Her words haunt me, because it was a clear call for help that went unanswered.
Depression and anxiety are common amongst those on spectrum. Especially for those who have a high sense of self awareness. Mental health is a big factor in a person’s feeling of self worth and the ability to function effectively. Sometimes it can be easy to spot, while in other cases it can reveal itself in other ‘not so obvious ‘ ways.
Things like aggressive behavior, spouts of regression, lack of concentration, and becoming withdrawn are common behaviors of depression and anxiety.
And these symptoms often go unseen and treated when combined with ASD. Depression and anxiety aren’t always linked to a chemical imbalance of the brain. These can be influenced by other factors such as being bullied, the low rate of employment for those with autism, and the general feeling of not being accepted. It is why acceptance is far more important than awareness. The rate of suicide amongst autistics has been steadily increasing over the years, yet it’s not being discussed. Young children and adults are ending their lives because they feel hopeless and at a loss. And whether society wants to admit it or not, how autistics are treated is a big factor in that.
As a parent to daughter on the spectrum, these statistics scare me. We need to do better as parents and as a society in teaching acceptance and inclusion of others. We need to talk about autism, and the importance of disability awareness. We can’t just assume our children will ‘do the right thing’ if we aren’t discussing the acceptance of people different from ourselves. All of these things start at home.
People with autism are 10 times more likely to die from suicide than the average person.
Do not take this statistic lightly, be aware, and act accordingly. Remember the signs might not be so obvious, depression has many facets. Trust your judgement and if you’re concerned consider screening for depression and anxiety. If you or anyone you know is at risk of suicide know that help is available.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255