8 Critical Measures to Counter Suicide

This post is by former 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 2013 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.

  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.

Click here to read What's the connection between autism and depression? from Christopher McDougle, MD, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Lurie Center for Autism.

Visit our Safety page 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 people on the autism spectrum. 

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