*If you are struggling and need to talk – this is a link to Mind’s website – with a list of Mental Health Crisis Helplines. Please don’t suffer in silence.*

According to the National Autistic Society (NAS), one third of all autistic adults ‘have reported’ serious mental health problems, which some prefer to describe as mental illness, because they say that the word ‘health’ is a contradiction in terms. But let’s not get sidetracked here…

This statistic means that far more than one third of all autistic adults will actually be suffering¬†from mental health problems, we just haven’t reported them. For many of us, for a plethora of reasons mentioned elsewhere, not least because of masking,¬†our mental wellbeing is under constant threat, unless we are lucky enough or determined enough to have found a way to live that respects our needs.

The list of mental health conditions that can affect us is as long as the list that can affect anyone, of any neurotype. We are likely to suffer more frequently, from more of them, particularly those of us who don’t yet know that we are neurodivergent. This is often because the obvious symptoms may be addressed, but not the underlying cause.

Conversely, if we have already been diagnosed as autistic, ADHD, or any other neurodivergence, there is the danger that any mental illness we experience will be neatly swept under the carpet by medical professionals and declared to be an inevitable aspect of our neurodivergence. Just because we are neurologically wired differently, doesn’t mean that we should have to accept that clinical depression, complex PTSD, addiction, insomnia, to name but a few, is just something we need to accept as part of our lot. Neurotypical people generally go to the GP when they have mental health concerns, and it’s really important that we understand that we have the right to that same level of attention and respect. None of these mental health problems are autism, they are not ADHD. It is having to function in a world that hasn’t been designed with us in mind that is the most potent cause of mental illness.

So many of the entries in this glossary relate to our mental health, there are too many to list, so just have a wander around when you feel the mood takes you. You could start with misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis.

A recent piece of research from the University of Iowa found that neurodivergent children with higher than average IQs (over 120) are six times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Personal experience means that this doesn’t surprise me – but it seems to have surprised them. Here’s the article.

This research fits entirely with the widespread acknowledgement that neurodivergent adults are at far greater risk of suicide. The actual statistics vary so wildly, I’m not even going to attempt to state them. The wide-ranging statements of fact are out there for anyone who is interested in delving deeper. Whatever the actual statistics are, and how could we ever actually know them?, suicidal ideation is a problem for many of us.

The link to the page at the end of this paragraph, from the NAS, explains that, since 2010, Equality Law states that autistic people can demand reasonable adjustments to any mental health support that we are given.. It’s quite a well hidden fact, so I would encourage you to read the article and use it to find support that works for you. So, instead of cancelling our appointments due to pure dread and anxiety, or masking in therapy because we’re so uncomfortable, let’s try to make use of what we now know is our right.

Here is the information on asking for reasonable adjustments to enable access to mental health services.

*If you are struggling and need to talk – this is a link to Mind’s website – with a list of Mental Health Crisis Helplines. Please don’t suffer in silence.*