Experts: Suicidality Rates Among People with Autism Are “Worryingly High”

Suicide is an extremely serious problem. A life is cut short by the demons of depression and hopelessness that plague a person’s mind. No one should ever have to feel that their lot is so hopeless that they must put a permanent end to their pain and suffering.

Sadly, however, suicide and suicidal ideation is an all-too-real problem for many people across the world. And according to experts, issues of suicide are “worryingly high” among adults on the autism spectrum.

While the statistics were gathered in England, there’s no doubt this is also an issue elsewhere. A 2016 Swedish study, for example, found that suicide was the number one cause of premature death among people with autism. And even one case of suicide is one too many.

Adobe Stock/
Adobe Stock/

The data experts report comes from a 2014 study on suicide and people on the spectrum. For newly diagnosed adults with Asperger’s…

  • 66 percent reported experiencing suicidal ideation.
  • 35 percent said they’d made plans to end their lives or had attempted to take their lives.
  • 31 percent reported experiencing depression.

(Side note: you may be wondering why the rates of depression are lower than suicide plans, attempts, or ideations. This is probably due to the fact that about half of people with autism experience a comorbid condition called alexithymia, in which they struggle to understand the emotions they are feeling.)

Adobe Stock/highwaystarz
Adobe Stock/highwaystarz

Said the 2014 study’s author, Sarah Cassidy, from Coventry University:

“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.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidality, you are not alone; there is help and there is hope. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. For those who struggle with verbal communication or experience anxiety talking on the phone, you can also visit I’m Alive to chat with someone online, or you can text 741-741.

For more information on suicide and autism—including how you can identify and help a person in crisis—check out this article.

Support Research & Therapy

Help those with Autism and their families at The Autism Site for free!