Empowering People, Launching lives

Autism and mental health

70–80% of children and adults with autism experience or have experienced mental health problems in their lifetime¹. Knowing how to spot the signs and get the right support at the right time is crucial in supporting the wellbeing of the individual.

Mental health conditions

Mental health conditions and what to look out for

It can be especially hard for autistic people to communicate concerns relating to their mental health as they may find it hard to describe their feelings. Even if there is no complaint of symptoms, it’s important to be aware that a sudden change in behaviour could be a sign of a mental health issue such as the development of an anxiety disorder.

Signals might include:

  • Sleep issues
  • Panic attacks
  • Negative thoughts
  • Catastrophising
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of energy
  • Intrusive or upsetting compulsive behaviour
  • Losing interest in hobbies or friends
  • Manic episodes

There is potential for mental health issues to be misdiagnosed or overlooked in autistic people owing to behaviour or communication difficulties that may be present. Conditions like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are sometimes mistaken for repetitive behaviours.

Charities like Mind have lots of detailed information on mental health conditions.

Using visual stories to support mental health

Visual stories are a great way of explaining something in a short, simple way to help people understand what is happening and why. The examples below vary in complexity, and show how stories can be used to explain different aspects of mental health. These can be used in full or as a template for you to create your own, based on the situation you are dealing with.

Feeling sad

Panic attacks

Anxiety disorder

Getting the right support

If you’re concerned about your mental health or that of your child it is important you get the right support and speak to your GP.

There are also a number of local and national support groups with further information and helplines. Follow the link to see some of the support available.

Support for parents

At BeyondAutism, parent resilience and wellbeing is a central theme in all of our services. Looking after your own mental health as a parent is really important. Finding a support group can be a great way to do this and share your experiences with other parents.

1. Ambitious About Autism (2017), Know Your Normal

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