Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Autistic children and adults are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts. It is often preceded by depression and/or anxiety.
If you or a loved one are thinking about suicide, get help now. Call a suicide hotline or go to CrisisChat.org to type.
Reasons for Suicidal Ideation
"Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain."
There are many things that could cause or contribute to an autistic person's desire to die. If you are reading this because of a loved one, you will need to talk to that person in order to figure out why they are feeling so terrible. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Mental illness. Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression can make life difficult to bear, especially if they are untreated or undertreated.
- Self hatred. With prominent organisations stating that autistic people destroy their families' lives, and therapies focused upon normalisation, autistic people may grow to hate their autism and themselves. This may happen especially if anti-autism sentiment is strong within the family, but can also come from other sources.
- Bullying. Autistic people are more likely to be bullied. This is the most common problem for autistic children that will make them want to take their own lives. They do not deserve to feel this way, so it is best for them to seek help immediately.
- Abuse. Autistic people are at higher risk for abuse, including emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. They may be abused in therapy, particularly compliance therapies such as ABA or therapies that focus on normalization (e.g. quiet hands).
- Lack of coping skills. Autistic people may have fewer close relationships, and fewer tools for handling negative emotions.
If you are an autistic person who has suicidal thoughts, feelings, or plans, it is important to get help immediately. You are a worthwhile human being and you do not deserve to feel this way at all. The world would not be better off without you in it. It can get better than this. This can affect your family members, since they love and care for you in your life, this may also affect your friends as well, especially if you have a friend that looks out to you in school, or anywhere else.
- Tell someone. Find someone you love and explain how you feel. Write a note or send a text message if you want, especially if it is easier. If you are worried about burdening them, consider this: would someone who loves you prefer to help you through a dark time, or attend your funeral? They'd rather know so they can help you get better.
- Visit a doctor. Set up a doctor's appointment, or go to the emergency room if you can't last that long. You may have treatable conditions such as anxiety or depression. Going soon will mean that you can start recovering sooner.
- Reduce stress. This might mean "regressing" by not pushing yourself to do difficult tasks, easing up on non-essential activities, receiving extra support, or even taking a break from school or work. All of these are better than dying or being dead.
- Visit the autistic community. Learn about neurodiversity, and read from people who face similar challenges. Exposure to the autistic community can help you accept yourself and realise that it's okay to be autistic.
- Cut out toxic influences. This includes toxic people, toxic therapists, and toxic organisations. Any person or group who makes you feel bad about yourself is not worth your time. Talk to loved ones if you need help breaking away.
- Find little ways to be productive. Large-scale productivity might not be a possibility for you right now, and that's okay. Find small ways to feel helpful and competent. See if you can volunteer online, such as by editing a wiki about your special interests or raising awareness about an important cause.
Helping a Suicidal Person
If a loved one is showing warning signs of suicide, here are ways to support them:
Helping Them Yourself
- Take their feelings seriously. People, especially autistic people, may have feelings that you don't understand. Treat their emotions as valid and important, even if they don't make sense to you.
- Listen. Many depressed and suicidal people need an opportunity to be heard.
- Intervene for bullying and abuse. If a child is being bullied at school, talk to the school and fix it. If a therapist is abusing them, quit the therapy and find a better therapist.
- Don't treat autism like a tragedy. Autism influences a large part of your loved one's experiences. If you say that autism is horrible, they may conclude that their existence is a horror.
- Have fun with them. Positive experiences don't cure depression, but they can give your loved one a little break. Find ways to have fun together, whether by going to the beach or just hanging out reading books.
- Encourage the positive autism aspects. Try engaging with their special interests, mentioning an article about companies wanting autistic employees for computer work, or introducing them to neurodiversity and the social model of disability.
- Make it clear they aren't a burden. Tell them you love them and like having them around. Sometimes autistic people don't know this. Don't let them doubt it.
- Meet your own needs. You can hardly be helpful if you're burned out or exhausted. Give yourself rest and set boundaries as needed. That way you'll have the energy to help when needed.
WikiHow's article "How to Help a Suicidal Autistic Person" delves into greater detail about the subject.
People contemplating suicide need help. If someone is showing symptoms of suicide, take them to a doctor. A doctor can help figure out what is wrong, and prescribe therapy and/or medication for underlying conditions such as depression. If you're uncertain what to do, you can call a suicide hotline to ask for advice.
In a crisis, you can take the autistic person to the emergency room, help them call a suicide hotline (or go to CrisisChat for a text chat), or call emergency services. If you are in the United States, do not call the police, because the police may injure or even kill your loved one.
- Psychology Today: New Research on Autism and Suicide
- Psych Central: Suicidal Thoughts 10 Times More Likely in Adults With Asperger’s
- Metanoia.org: If you are thinking about suicide... read this first
- ASAN tag archives: hate speech
- thAutcast: If You Hate Autism, You Hate Autistic People
- Ray Hemachandra: Autism 101: Hating Your Autistic Child
- Sexual Abuse of Children with Autism: Factors that Increase Risk and Interfere with Recognition of Abuse
- Special Ed: Signs of Abuse
- Unstrange Mind: ABA (severe trigger warning)
- Autism Women's Network: My Thoughts on ABA
- Autism Myth Busters: The Truth about ABA
- Real Social Skills: ABA therapy is not like typical parenting
- Autism Help.org: Depression, Suicide Risk, and Autism
- WikiHow: How to Help a Suicidal Autistic Person