Today, for World Suicide Prevention Day, we wanted to tell you about the work we have been doing with autistic people, families, services, researchers and policy-makers to better prevent suicide in the autistic community. 

Developing better evidence 

There hasn’t been enough research on suicide and autism. That makes it difficult to make policy and services more effective. In 2017 we brought people across the community together for the first international summit on suicide and autism to decide the way forward. As a result we are now:

  • Funding researchers to work with people who have lost autistic loved ones to suicide to explore the circumstances around those deaths. Dr Cassidy and her team are also working with autistic people who have had suicidal thoughts to understand their experiences.  
  • Supporting Dr Sarah Cassidy and Dr Jacqui Rodgers to continue working with autistic people to determine the top research and policy priorities for preventing suicide in our community.  The project will begin by asking autistic people and bereaved families about their priorities, which will be discussed at a collaborative workshop in Spring 2019.

Connecting prevention services to autistic people 

Some autistic people can struggle to access support if they’re in a crisis, so we’re ensuring other organisations that care about suicide prevention are considering autistic people’s needs: 

  • This year we’ve connected Samaritans with autistic people, to help them explore how they can make their services more accessible.  
  • In 2019, we’ll be hosting a workshop with public, private and voluntary organisations working in suicide prevention as part of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance’s Annual Conference. We want these groups to hear from autistic people and families with lived experience of suicide. 

Improving public policy 

We persistently campaign to improve support for autistic people experiencing suicidal thoughts. Since our One Size Doesn’t Fit All campaign we’ve worked with policy-makers to make significant changes:     

  • In April, the English Department of Health refreshed its Adult Autism Strategy. Tackling early death is now the Strategy’s top priority, having never previously been mentioned. 
  • In August, NHS England announced that tackling the physical and mental health inequalities faced by autistic people will be one of the top priorities for their long-term plan.  
  • Today, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have published their new guidance on suicide prevention, which highlights autistic people for the first time. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far. There is still a lot to do and we look forward to working together to build longer, happier, healthier lives for autistic people and their families.