Suicide rates among people with autism in England have reached “worryingly” high levels, according to an article in Lancet Psychiatry.
Writing ahead of a world-first international summit on suicidality in autism, the researchers – from Newcastle and Coventry universities – say the issue remains poorly understood and that action is urgently needed to help those most at risk.
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.