7 Reasons To Learn About About Autism and Mental Health

autism and mental health

“I think Stephen Borgman should do a show focusing on a few of the common co-morbid conditions.  This being said does anybody want to share their related diagnoses?” –Thrive with Aspergers/Autism Community Member

So Why Should We Talk About Autism and Mental Health?

1.  Mental Health Conditions Are Common On The Autism Spectrum

This member is not alone.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, about 70% of individuals with autism spectrum may have one co-occurring mental health condition, and about 40% may have two or more co-occurring mental health conditions (pg.58).

A caution:

Many of the studies on which this statistic is built are limited by the fact that many of the individuals surveyed were already seeking treatment for autism or mental health.

So there is a sort of selection bias, meaning that those who go to mental health clinics may not reflect the larger autism population in the community.

Nevertheless, the statistic is worth paying attention to.

2.  Untreated Mental Health Conditions Cause Suffering

According to the Scientific American,  “the human and economic toll is enormous yet often hidden. Untreated mental illnesses in the U.S. cost more than $100 billion a year in lost productivity, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).”

Autistics and Aspergians are not immune from this cost, and often are victims of unidentified and untreated mental health conditions.

3.  Untreated mental health conditions can affect your physical health

Our mental state affects our physical health.

“Physical well-being and subjective well-being are two sides of the same coin,” says Howard Friedman, author of The Longevity Project, a research-based look at who lives the longest and why. “Mental health affects physical health, and physical health affects mental health.”  (source: U.S. News Health)

According to this article, A Woman’s Health: Happy Mind, Healthy Body“, [untreated] stress:

“raises heart rate, cholesterol,1 and blood pressure. 2 It causes fat to accumulate around our bellies, 3boosting the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular death.4 And women are more likely than men to experience heart problems while under stress, according to recent research from Duke University School of Medicine. 5″ (see the article for footnote citations)

4.  Knowledge About Mental Health Reduces The Stigma Around Mental Health

I love these 10 facts about mental health from the World Health Organization.

Here are six of those facts I thought you should know:

1. Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems.

2. Mental and substance use disorders are the leading causes of disability worldwide.

(My biggest question here would be – untreated, treated, or both?)

3. About 800,000 people commit suicide every year. It is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

4. Wars and disasters have a large impact on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing

5. Mental disorders are important risk factors for other diseases, as well as unintentional and intentional injuries.

“Mental disorders increase the risk of getting ill from other diseases such as HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and vice-versa)

6. Stigma and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care.

5.  When You Know What You’re Dealing With, You Can Get Help

Even if you don’t know what’s going on: if you’re having emotional difficulties, get help!

If you have insurance, look on the back of your insurance card for any phone numbers with the terms “behavioral health” or “mental health.”

Call that number and ask the person on the phone how you can find healthcare providers who are in network with your insurance plan.

Here are some websites that some colleagues of mine put together for those of you who don’t have insurance.

Caveat: please bear with me if some of the sites are outdated – my colleagues put this list together a few years ago.

Partnership for prescription: https://www.pparx.org/

  • This site not only has information on Rx, but also information on how to get reduced cost MRI/CT Scans, medical bill mediation, and state-sponsored programs, and a search feature for free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics: http://www.needymeds.org/
  • The following website, http://www.rxassist.org/, is a comprehensive database of patient assistance programs which also includes tools, news, and articles. By clicking on the Learn More circle under patients, you will be sent to a page where you can search by drug or company name
  • Angel Flight is a nonprofit free of charge company that will fly patients for treatments for free. Their number is 1-877-4ANANGEL, they also have a very nice website with more info. http://www.angelflightsoars.org/AngelFlightContentPage.aspx?nd=52
  • There are federally funded healthcare clinics in both rural and urban areas that offer free or low-cost care to the uninsured, based upon income.  There is a website where you can put in your zip code and find the closest center:  findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/

Other Mental Health and Disability Resources To Consider:

  • http://openpathcollective.org/ This is a site that lists psychotherapists that will provide in-office treatment for 30 to 50 dollars a session.
  • Most counties have been provided funding for trained Navigators that can help you walk through investigating your insurance options under the Affordable Healthcare Act, and then also assist you with applying for it. The local county (or township) health department usually has links to or details for contacts for further information and resources under the Affordable healthcare Act.
  • Affordable Care Act. Website is: https://www.healthcare.gov/
  • Search tip: Go to google search and put in search box free healthcare for city and state and options will pop up. You check out those specific sites of care and contact phone numbers.
  • A site for Medicaid coverage: nami.org/Medicaidbasics.
  • For those who need to rent or purchase scooters, lift chairs, ramps, stair lifts, wheeled walkers, wheelchairs, grab bars, etc. This is a site which offers discounted equipment (this site is recommended by the Rehab staff of a local academic medical center) http://discountmobilityusa.com/stage/
  • Help with prosthetics and rehabilitation. Obtaining Prosthetic Limbs without Insurance. Given Limb Foundation http://blog.givenlimb.org/amputees/obtaining-prosthetic-limbs-without-insurance/
  • There are federally funded healthcare clinics in both rural and urban areas that offer free or low-cost care to the uninsured, based upon income.  There is a website where you can put in your zip code and find the closest center:  findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
  • Also, check out mentalhealth.gov

6.  Mental Health Helps Us Think About Neurodiversity

In her article about neurodiversity and mental health, the writer challenges both autistics and mental health professionals to understand mental health conditions like anxiety, ADHD, and depression as symptoms that often arise from being different from the “norm” of society.

Mental health classifications are based on the medical model, which in turn is based on diagnosing and treating physical diseases.

Autism, says the neurodiversity model, is merely a different condition, a different brain.  What causes anxiety, stress, and depression is stigma from society.

Some of you may find the neurodiversity model helpful; others may not.

At the very least, the neurodiversity model prompts me to be more understanding and empathetic toward autistics and Aspergians who are struggling with mental health conditions.

7.  When Mental Health Conditions Are Treated, You Can Live A Better Life

If untreated mental health conditions can contribute to higher medical expenses, poor physical health, poor work and/or school performance, and fewer employment opportunities, it follows that getting help and support for these conditions will make your life better.

I’m well aware of the societal discrimination and stigma still limits employment and produces stress for so many in the autism community.

I say that we who are advocates need to continue to let our voice be heard, and at the same time, reach out to get mental health help.

Other Autism and Mental Health Articles You May Enjoy:

Invisible Strings Aspergian blogger, M. Kelter, writes about his experience getting help with depression.

Check out his articles on social anxiety as well.

Musings of an Aspie author Cynthia Kim wrote a great series of articles on executive functioning (attention deficit disorder).

10 Things You Can Do For Your Mental Health


  • Facebook brings suicide prevention tools to Live and Messenger
  • 6 lifestyle changes to make if you want to live to be 100

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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