Gus Hardy, an autistic author, shared his story about another autistic friend from high school:
I talked a year ago with an old friend from high school who shares my disorder but not my belief. My friend had attempted suicide, reasoning that “I’m not contributing anything to the world, and since we’re all screwing up the environment, I might as well not use up any more of the earth’s resources.” This friend could only see the world in terms of resources and expendability—with no mention of inherent worth or dignity. I still pray for her.
Gus’s autistic friend’s suicide attempt unfortunately highlights a trend in the autistic community: suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Aspergian author M. Kelter wrote about a study talking about how two in every three Asperigan young and older adults struggle with suicidal thoughts.
M. Kelter writes,
One recent study found that two thirds of spectrum-diagnosed adults surveyed had contemplated suicide; 35 percent had actually made plans or an attempt.
This is why we need to be talking about suicide prevention, particularly for autistics and Aspergians.
You can give and receive hope by learning about suicide prevention.
Here are 8 things you and I should know about suicide prevention.
1. What Is Suicide Prevention?
According to Wikipedia,
It includes –
- treating the symptoms of depression
- improving the coping strategies of persons who would otherwise seriously consider suicide
- reducing the prevalence of conditions believed to constitute risk factors for suicide
- and giving people hope for a better life after their current problems are resolved.
2. Why Is Suicide Prevention Important?
Without understanding suicide prevention, it’s hard for you and me to help someone who needs helping.
But most importantly I believe that you, I, and every person on this planet is created in the image of God.
Therefore, every person has inherent worth and dignity, and deserves to be alive.
3. Aspergers/Autism, Depression, and Suicide Prevention
As M. Kelter points out in his series on depression, a large percentage of Aspergians and autistics deal with depression.
By definition, clinical depression can include frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.
Addressing depression is one of the best ways to prevent suicide.
4. The Statistics of Suicide Potential Among Autistics and Aspergians
According to Aspegertestsite.com:
A recent survey, as quoted on both www.cam.ac.uk and also www.thelancet.com, stated that out of 374 adults surveyed (256 men and 118 women), 243 of these people reported suicidal thoughts. That is to say, the level of this type of thinking is 49 percent higher than in the general population of England. It is also seven percent higher than in a similar survey conducted using patients with psychosis-related issues.
www.cam.ac.uk — 374 adults surveyed (256 men and 118 women); Aspies 66% more likely to have suicidal thoughts, compared with 17% in the general population and 59% in patients with psychosis
www.thelancet.com — 243 out of 374 surveyed reported such dire thoughts. Nine times higher than in the general population of England. “Individuals who planned or attempted suicide had a significantly higher level of self-reported autistic traits than those who did not”; Asperger’s Syndrome generally not diagnosed until age 11 upwards.
Because autistics and Aspergians seem to be at higher risk for suicidal thinking and/or actions, suicide prevention is important for them.
5. Know The Warning Signs Of Suicide
The American Association of Suicidology outlines 10 important suicide warning signs, listed below :
- Suicidal Ideation: thinking, talking, or writing about suicide, planning for suicide.
- Substance abuse.
- Anxiety, agitation and unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.
- Social Withdrawal from friends, family, or society.
- Anger, rage or seeking revenge.
- Recklessness or impulsiveness.
- Mood changes.
6. Know The Risk Factors for Suicide
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides the risk factors listed below.
As we understand these risk factors, we can be more alert to ourselves and others who may need help.
“Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life” —afsp.org
- Mental health conditions
- Bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder
- Borderline or antisocial personality disorder
- Conduct disorder
- Psychotic disorders, or psychotic symptoms in the context of any disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
- Serious or chronic health condition and/or pain
- Stressful life events which may include a death, divorce, or job loss
- Prolonged stress factors which may include harassment, bullying, relationship problems, and unemployment
- Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
- Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
Historical and Genetic Factors
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide attempts
7. Know The Interventions
Wikipedia provides a list of typical interventions to prevent suicide.
Suicide prevention strategies focus on reducing the risk factors and intervening strategically to reduce the level of risk. Risk and protective factors, unique to the individual can be assessed by a qualified mental health professional.
Some of the specific strategies used to address are:
- Crisis intervention.
- Structured counseling and psychotherapy.
- Hospitalization for those with low adherence to collaboration for help and those who require monitoring & secondary symptom treatment.
- Supportive therapy like substance abuse treatment, Psychotropic medication, Family psychoeducation and Access to emergency phone call care with emergency rooms, suicide prevention hotlines…etc.
- Restricting access to lethality of suicide means through policies and laws.
- Creating & using crisis cards, An uncluttered card formatted readably that describes list of activities one should follow in crisis still the positive behavior responses settles in the personality.
- Person-centered life skills training. e,g., Problem solving.
- Registering with Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Suicide Bereavement Support Group, Religious group with flow rituals…etc.
- Therapeutic recreational therapy that improves mood.
- Motivating self-care activities like physical exercise’s and meditative relaxation.
Psychotherapies that have shown most successful or evidence based are Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), it has shown to be helpful in reducing suicide attempts and reducing hospitalizations for suicidal ideation and Cognitive therapy (CBT), it has shown to improve problem-solving and coping abilities.
8. Know The Resources Available To You or Your Loved One/s
First, I’m sharing a video from one autistic to all autistics, called “Speaking to Suicidal Autistics”. You’ll find some helpful ideas here.
The Mighty has organized a long list of suicide prevention resources.
Here’s a wikihow on How To Help A Suicidal Autistic Person. (qualifier – I don’t know how many autistics versus non-autistics contributed to this article, but I did think it was a helpful article).
The Value Of Suicide Prevention
Many Thrive with Aspergers closed secret Facebook group members shared how suicidal thoughts have plagued them.
Just as many of them have been able to support each other and provide encouragement and hope.
When we feel connected to others who accept us and hear us, we don’t feel as alone.
Every single person I’ve talked to or counseled who felt suicidal, but decided to go on living has made this world a better place by simply being them.
And you and I have so much to give to the world and to others. When we crawl out of the hole of contemplating suicide, we can see how much we help and hope we can offer others.
Are you feeling suicidal or hopeless?
I’m taking these tips from Tim Ferris, who contemplated and planned his own suicide in young adulthood.
Because he’s still alive, he’s reached thousands and thousands with a message of life.
You can read his complete article. I’m just going to share his main points.
1. Call this number : 1 (800) 273-8255. I didn’t have it, and I wish I had. It’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (website and live chat here). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in both English and Spanish.
2. I realized it would destroy other people’s lives. Killing yourself can spiritually kill other people.
3. There’s no guarantee that killing yourself improves things!
Finally, check out Tim’s Practical Gremlin list at the bottom of his post – you may find it helpful
Would you like to join a supportive group of autistics and Aspergians? Join the Thrive with Aspergers/Autism closed, secret Facebook group. Go to my contact page, fill out your information, and ask to join the group!