We know that the mental health system is not performing for many autistic people. We want to work with NHS England to find the best way to deliver support to autistic people when they need it.

The NHS’s key strategy for mental health recommends the development of a 'referral to treatment pathway' for autism.

This is an important opportunity to make sure that there is clear guidance for NHS health professionals on how to help autistic people experiencing mental health problems.

They haven’t developed strategies to approach people like Charlotte, she was an enigma really. They thought ‘she has a good family, she’ll be fine.’

Karen, parent

Our recommendations

Currently it's not clear whether this project will go ahead, who will be involved or what it will focus on. 

We really want the pathways to succeed.  Here are 10 recommendations that we hope the Government and NHS will act on as they start planning this project.

  1. Collaborate with autistic people and their families to understand their experiences with services.
  2. Cover the mental health needs of autistic children, teenagers and adults, including older adults. 
  3. Explain how mental health problems can look different in autistic people compared to others. 
  4. Address the increased and unique risk of suicide amongst autistic people. 
  5. Emphasise that we should not ‘just accept’ the mental health problems that autistic people face.  
  6. Recognise that each autistic person is different. Support should be personalised to their needs. 
  7. Begin by identifying what has worked for autistic people specifically. 
  8. Ensure future research into mental health and autism is adopted into practice. 
  9. Get the support of NHS leaders – to ensure the pathways become reality quickly across the NHS. 
  10. Do more than just diagnose people with autism. The NHS should not leave autistic people experiencing mental health problems behind.