8 Critical Measures to Counter Suicide
This post is by Autism Speaks board member and Family Services Committee member Sallie Bernard. The tips are excerpted from her article The Other Public Health Crisis from the April-May edition of The Autism File magazine. The article discusses the growing rates of suicide among individuals with autism and focuses on how awareness and action can save a life. You can read a PDF of the entire article here.
1. Pay Attention
Never minimize or trivialize words or actions indicating suicidal thoughts. Ignoring them won't make them go away. Additionally, monitor any changes in behavior, and be aware that such changes can follow head injuries including concussion. Be extra vigilant should your child receive a sports or other injury involving even a mild concussion.
2. Talk About It
Be open and frank with both your ASD and typical children when talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings of depression and anxiety. Don't be afraid to enlist help from a healthcare professional, pastor, educator, therapist, etc.
3. Prevent Bullying
Monitor your child's school or workplace and engage with teachers or employers to ensure any bullying is recognized and eliminated.
4. Reduce Social Isolation
Build social relationships, access community-based activities, and prioritize social skills and peer mentoring.
5. Promote Healthy Lifestyles
Good nutrition, daily exercise, regular sleep, and mindfulness practice go a long way in regulating mood and behaviors. Implement self-empowerment and self-awareness programs which enable your child to better handle life stressors. Meaningful, consistent work also acts as a buffer. Also, be alert for signs of alcohol and drug abuse and be prepared to seek professional assistance if needed.
6. Monitor Medication Side Effects
Some medications used for behavioral or mood problems can increase suicidal ideation. Maintain close dialogue with the prescribing physician if any worrisome symptoms appear.
7. Place Barriers on Lethal Means
If you have concerns or are entering a crisis situation, keep firearms and sharp objects under lock and key. Be aware of any poisons—including medications—in your home that need to be secured. Lock upper story windows and engage child locks on car doors. Remove or prevent access to ropes and cords.
8. Act Quickly
If you recognize suicidal tendencies in an individual with or without an ASD diagnosis, reach out to a professional immediately. Monitor your child closely and constantly until he or she is seen by a professional.
Read the full PDF of Sallie’s article from The Autism File Magazine here.
Click here to read this week's Got Questions?: What's the connection between autism and depression? from Christopher McDougle, MD, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Lurie Center for Autism.
Visit the Autism Safety Project website to learn more about keeping your loved ones safe both at home and in the community. This resource also contains information for first responders to help them create a safer environment for and have positive interactions with individuals on the autism spectrum.