Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders

16 Nov

For those who don’t read Left Brain/Right Brain regularly, know that I am constantly bothered by the lack of attention to understanding the needs of autistic adults that I see in much of the ongoing research and in many parent-advocacy groups. My child is still somewhat young, but I realize that real understanding comes with time. Not only will attention to autistic adults provide benefit for those already of age, but it will set the stage for a better life for the autistic children of today.

When I see an study titled “Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders”, I am taken aback by just how serious this question is. The study out of Japan is preliminary but they found 7.3% of patients seen for attempted suicide are autistic. Take whatever prevalence for autism among adults you think is appropriate. I suspect the autism prevalence in adults is closer to 1%, but that’s still a 7x higher rate of attempted suicide. Much of the resistance to focusing attention on the needs of adults comes from groups promoting the idea of a vaccine-induced autism epidemic. If you believe the autism prevalence in adults is something like 1 in 10,000 (0.01%), this is would mean that autistic adults are attempting suicide in Japan at a rate of 700 times greater than the general population.

Our results indicate that ASDs should always be a consideration when dealing with suicide attempts in adults, in particular, in cases of males. Individuals with ASDs attempted suicide using serious methods, and, therefore, they may have a tendency to complete it at a first attempt. This was only a preliminary study. Thus, the clinical features of individuals with ASDs who attempt suicide must be clarified. In addition, interventions focusing on preventing suicide attempts in individuals with ASDs are required.

Yes, autistics are not only attempting suicide more often, they are using more serious methods. Like cutting/stabbing one’s self. Like jumping from heights or carbon monoxide intoxication.

The autistics in this study had the same (or a little higher) education level as the non-autistics who were attempting suicide. While psychiatric history was high (about 50%) it was lower in the autistic group than the non-autistics.

There are more comparisons made and which could be discussed but, for now, I’ll bring this back to: autistics in this study are attempting suicide more often and with more serious methods than non-autistics. If that doesn’t make people consider the importance of understanding the unique needs of autistic adults, I don’t know what will.

Here is the abstract:
Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders

The objective of this study was to investigate the frequency and clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

We enrolled 587 consecutive patients aged 18 or over who attempted suicide and were hospitalized for inpatient treatment. Psychiatric diagnoses, suicide attempt frequency and clinical features were compared between ASD and non-ASD patients.

Forty-three (7.3%) of the 587 subjects who attempted suicide had ASDs. The incidence of patients with mood disorders was significantly lower (Fisher’s Exact Test, P=.043) and that of those with an adjustment disorder was significantly higher (Fisher’s Exact Test, P<.001) in the ASD group than in the non-ASD group. The average length of stay at both the hospital and intensive care unit in the ASD group was longer than that in the non-ASD group (z=-2.031, P=.042; z=-2.322, P=.020, respectively).

ASDs should always be a consideration when dealing with suicide attempts in adults at the emergency room.

By Matt Carey

5 Responses to “Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders”

  1. anautismdad November 16, 2012 at 06:40 #

    There is a dearth of studies on autism beyond the transition into adulthood and this is a huge gap in the research which needs to be remedied.

    • Lara Lohne November 18, 2012 at 08:57 #

      I agree with anautismdad. Not only will focus and research to find ways to help autistic adults help those who are adults now (possibly even those that aren’t yet diagnosed) but will also help the up and coming generations of autistic children who grow up and will become adults themselves one day.

      This hits home for me. Not only because I want my son to have help in the future should he need it (assistance for ASD shouldn’t end when a child becomes an adult, yet it seems that is the way things are currently), but because of my partner. He is not diagnosed, yet he displays classic characteristics of ASD. He has not attempted suicide, but has for a very long time wished for death. He has suffered a great deal throughout his life, much of that possibly due to the stress of living with an undiagnosed ASD and not having the ability to take the ‘time outs’ he needs to chill out from life. He’s been fired from multiple jobs because they thought he was lazy and lacked the drive and focus to do the job (except for one time when he told his manager, when asked to give honest feedback about his ability to manage, told him he was a really bad manager.) Yet when he was at work, he was always a top performer. He took a lot of time off work though. We are only now understanding why, but we are hard pressed to find anybody willing to take our concerns serious enough to help him get an evaluation.

      It now isn’t just him suffering, but our entire household. With an autistic child and a possibly autistic adult, my partner has just as much difficulty caring for our son as he does working, and so I care for our son, which renders me unable to work, and makes us reliant on him to work, yet he has developed so many co-morbid mental disorders from living life on the fringe of the NT world, that he has difficulty leaving the house, succumbs to panic attacks regularly and is just coming back to work after a 7 month leave of absence from his work at home job, and the new lead is trying to get rid of him. With a proper diagnosis, she wouldn’t be able to, his job would be protected. As things stand though, he has to work extra hard to make sure he doesn’t make the slightest mistake, and if it doesn’t let up, he’s heading toward another break down, which is why he took the leave in the first place. How many more adults are there like my partner that need help but can’t find it because so much effort, funds and energy is focused solely on the children? It makes one wonder really.

  2. JB August 19, 2016 at 19:20 #

    Reblogged this on Strife to Strive and commented:
    How to help those with ASD in a suicide attempt


  1. Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum … « Robcamstone's Home - November 16, 2012

    […] See on […]

  2. Autistic Children Have Much Higher Risk Of Suicide - June 17, 2013

    […] earlier study in Japan suggested that adults with autism spectrum disorders could have an elevated risk of suicide as well. In that study, researchers found that patients with […]

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