Experiences of Treatment and Support for Mental Health Problems, Self-Injury and Suicidality in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions.

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
L. Camm-Crosbie1, S. A. Cassidy2, L. Bradley1 and R. Shaw3, (1)Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom, (2)School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom, (3)NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
Background: Recent research has shown that adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are at high risk of co-morbid psychiatric disorders, non-suicidal self-injury and suicidality. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that adults with ASC may have difficulty accessing appropriate support and treatment for these difficulties. This is particularly worrying considering that adults with ASC are significantly more likely to die by suicide than the general population.

Objectives: To explore experiences of support and treatment for mental health difficulties, self-injury and suicidality amongst adults with ASC.

Methods: An online survey exploring mental health, non-suicidal self-injury and suicidality was designed with the help of a steering group of eight adults diagnosed with ASC. Data from the section of the survey including qualitative questions on experiences of support and treatment for these difficulties are presented. Open ended questions explored experiences of trying to obtain, and receiving treatment and support for mental health problems, self-injury and/or suicidality.

Results: The ASC group comprised 200 adults (122 females, 77 males, 1 unreported) aged 18 to 67 (M = 38.9, SD = 11.5). Thematic analysis was used to analyse these qualitative data. An overarching theme was identified that tied together participants' diverse experiences: that individually tailored treatment and support was both beneficial and desirable. Participants described lack of available services for adults with ASC with mental health problems, lack of professionals understanding and knowledge of ASC, and the importance of effective adapted treatment and support for their wellbeing. For many, positive experiences of tailored treatment and support meant that suicide was no longer seen as part of their future.

Conclusions: Findings demonstrate an urgent need for professionals’ to improve their awareness of ASC and adopt a more flexible approach, suited to individual needs. Participants’ experiences clearly indicated that this is essential for improving their wellbeing, reducing mental health problems, self-harm and suicidality. Results will be used to inform mental health service provision for adults with ASC.