Rates of suicide 'worrying' among people with autism, say experts

May 24, 2017, Coventry University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Suicide rates among people with autism in England have reached "worryingly" high levels, according to experts writing in the Lancet Psychiatry today.

Writing ahead of a world-first international summit on suicidality in , the researchers - from Coventry and Newcastle universities - say the issue remains poorly understood and that action is urgently needed to help those most at risk.

Dr Sarah Cassidy from Coventry University cites a clinical study she led in 2014 - also published in the Lancet Psychiatry - in which 66% of adults newly diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) reported having contemplated .

In the same study - which remains the most recent clinical research into suicidality in autism - 35% of the 365 respondents newly diagnosed with AS said they had planned or attempted to end their own life, with 31% reporting that they suffered depression.

A 2016 population study in Sweden also concluded that suicide is a leading cause of premature death in people with .

Dr Cassidy from Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement said:

"What relatively little we know about suicidality in autism points to a worryingly high prevalence of people with the condition contemplating and attempting to take their own life.

"More concerning still, the small body of research that does exist exposes serious shortcomings in how prepared we are to intervene and provide effective support to those with autism who are most at risk of dying by suicide.

"There are significant differences, for example, in the risk factors for suicide in autism compared with the general population, meaning the journey from suicidal thoughts to suicidal behaviours might be quite different.

"The models we currently consider best practise for assessing and treating suicidality need to be rethought for those with autism, and policy adjusted accordingly so new approaches are reflected across services."

Co-author Dr Jacqui Rodgers from Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience said:

"This unique event is of huge importance. For the first time researchers and clinicians from the fields of autism and suicide research will come together, along with members of the autism community and those bereaved by suicide, to learn from each other and identify clinical and research priorities to address this urgent issue."

Jon Spiers, chief executive of autism research charity Autistica, said:

"For years society and the healthcare system have ignored the voices of families who have lost autistic loved ones unnecessarily, and far too young. Recent research revealing the sheer scale of the problem proves that we cannot let that continue.

"National and local government, research funders and industry, as well as the NHS and service providers all have a responsibility to tackle the issue of suicide in autism. Autistica is committed to playing a major part by funding mental health research programmes. This suicide summit will kick-start our campaign for change in this severely overlooked area."

Coventry and Newcastle universities are running the international summit on suicide in autism - the first of its kind anywhere in the world - over the next two days, with funding from Autistica and the James Lind Alliance.

The aim is to develop recommendations for changes in government policy and practise that can be implemented quickly to reduce suicide in autism, and to decide on priorities for future research in the field.

Explore further: Adults with Asperger Syndrome at significantly higher risk of suicidal thoughts than the general population

More information: Lancet Psychiatry (2017). www.thelancet.com/journals/lan … 2215-0366(17)30162-1

Related Stories

Adults with Asperger Syndrome at significantly higher risk of suicidal thoughts than the general population

June 25, 2014
Adults with the autism spectrum condition known as Asperger Syndrome are nine times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than people from the UK general population, according to the first large-scale clinical study ...

Autism Speaks issues special report

April 26, 2017
Autism Speaks today issued the first in a series of annual, in-depth reports on special topics in autism. Autism and Health: Advances in Understanding and Treating the Health Conditions that Frequently Accompany Autism gathers ...

Individuals with autism at substantially heightened risk for injury death

March 21, 2017
Deaths in individuals with autism increased 700 percent in the past 16 years and were three times as likely as in the general population to be caused by injuries, according to a new study by Columbia University's Mailman ...

Autistic children may be at greater risk of suicide ideation and attempts, study says

March 12, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Children with an autism spectrum disorder may be at greater risk for contemplating suicide or attempting suicide than children without autism, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.

Thousands of people with autism join new online genetic study

April 17, 2017
Autism has a strong genetic component. To date, approximately 50 genes have been identified that almost certainly play a role in autism, and researchers estimate that at least an additional 300 are involved. But to identify ...

Vitamin D supplements may benefit children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

November 21, 2016
Vitamin D supplementation improved symptoms of autism in a recent trial.

Recommended for you

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Antidepressants are more effective than placebo at treating acute depression in adults, concludes study

February 22, 2018
Meta-analysis of 522 trials includes the largest amount of unpublished data to date, and finds that antidepressants are more effective than placebo for short-term treatment of acute depression in adults.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Self-compassion may protect people from the harmful effects of perfectionism

February 21, 2018
Relating to oneself in a healthy way can help weaken the association between perfectionism and depression, according to a study published February 21, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Madeleine Ferrari from Australian ...

Researchers uncover novel mechanism behind schizophrenia

February 21, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine scientist has uncovered a novel mechanism in which a protein—neuregulin 3—controls how key neurotransmitters are released ...

How people cope with difficult life events fuels development of wisdom, study finds

February 21, 2018
How a person responds to a difficult life event such as a death or divorce helps shape the development of their wisdom over time, a new study from Oregon State University suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.