A new programme of research and policy work has just been incorporated into the Department for Health and Social Care Suicide Prevention Strategy 2023-2028, meaning that autistic people are now included as a specific demographic in suicide prevention policy for the first time.
Carried out by the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology, this research project is the first to indicate that late diagnosis of autism in adulthood is associated with a high risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
Various key recommendations have been made by the autism community for inclusion in the policy brief, including improving access to diagnosis and post-diagnostic support and including the autism community in research and policy decisions in the future.
Dr Sarah Cassidy, lead author of the project, said: “Despite autistic people being at increased risk of suicide, they have been excluded from suicide prevention research and policy. Our work has ensured that autistic people’s voices have been included in research and policy decisions which affect them.
“Having this change in policy is a hugely important moment for autistic people and will help to inform the correct care and mental health support to prevent future deaths.”
The new Suicide Prevention Strategy, published in September, details priority areas for action to reduce suicide rates, setting out the national ambitions for suicide prevention over the next five years.
Principles to be taken into account for the design and delivery of interventions, resources, services and activities include that no one should be left out of suicide prevention efforts. This includes addressing access inequalities to effective interventions and being responsive to marginalised communities and their needs.
Furthermore, early intervention is essential, with action taken to prevent people from getting to the point where they’re already experiencing crisis and/or suicidal thoughts or feelings.
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