Following Autistica's campaigning the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is commissioning two new studies to support autistic people with mental health problems. 

Mental health is the number one research priority for autistic people and their families. But only 3% of autism research globally focuses on mental health.

Over the last few years we’ve responded by investing almost three quarters of our research budget in projects related to mental health. 

However, a lot of gaps remain in our understanding of how best to support autistic people with mental health problems. 

We tend to assume that what helps most people will also help autistic people. It doesn’t necessarily work that way.

Mike, parent and GP

The new studies

In 2017 we ran a campaign called One Size Doesn't Fit All to improve support for autistic people experiencing mental health problems. One of our recommendations called on the national research funders to invest in solving most pressing mental health questions identified by autistic people and their families.

The NIHR have now responded by commissioning research into two of the five topics identified at our collaborative mental health workshop.

One of these studies will look at what mental health interventions are effective in treating anxiety amongst autistic people with a learning disability. The other project will test whether anti-depressants known as SSRIs can help autistic adults with anxiety. 

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) will also be supporting this research

What five research topics did we recommend

In 2017 we worked with autistic people, family members, health professionals and researchers to identify five of the most pressing questions about autism and mental health. 

These were:

  1. What mental health interventions are effective in helping autistic people with learning disabilities?
  2. What clinical indicators should health professionals look for to identify depression in autistic people?
  3. What makes a peer support programme personalised and effective for managing or improving mental health in autistic people?
  4. What adjustments should be made to help autistic people at risk of suicide to reach support when they are at a crisis point?
  5. Are anti-depressants effective treatments for depression in autistic adults?