People on the autistic spectrum or with a learning disability who are also experiencing mental health problems deserve to receive better support than what is currently offered. We are working together with our local Minds to make this happen.
Those of us with autism or a learning disability (or both) are more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.
This can be because there are fewer resources and support for people autism or a learning disability, to help develop coping skills, can experience more negative life events, and face stigma and discrimination from people and services as a result of a disability. Biology and genetics may also increase the likelihood of developing a mental health problem.
However, the mental health of people with autism or a learning disability (or both) is often overlooked or ignored. That’s why it’s really important that the services people with autism and learning disabilities use are able to properly identify mental health problems, so people can get the right support at the right time.
Also, once a mental health problem has been identified, it's important that commissioners, service providers and staff offer inclusive services and support that cater for the needs of people with autism or a learning disability (or both) who also have a mental health problem.
Lucy talks about living with a mental health problem and autism in this video. Lucy says she wants support that sees her "as a whole person and not just as a collection of diagnoses".
We genuinely believe our work is a step in the right direction, but more needs to happen, and change can only achieved if we work together.
In 2015 we completed a two-year project with local Minds in Aberystwyth, Leeds and Devon (formerly Plymouth and District Mind) highlighting that those of us with autism are particularly vulnerable to developing mental health problems. We found that existing services tend to treat people either for their autism or for their mental health problems, while failing to recognise the complex dynamic between the two.
With few mental health services providing specialist support for adults with autism in the UK, there is a great need to develop mental health services able to meet their needs in an appropriate and respectful way.
This is why we have been working with our local Minds and other partners to produce practical guidance for health and social care professionals to make sure that those of us on the autism spectrum get genuine person-centred support.
Download the guidance for practitioners and providers [PDF 1.28MB] to help support people living with autism spectrum disorder and mental health problems.
Our local Minds provide mental health services in local communities across England and Wales. Find out if there is a local Mind in your area.
Find out more about this project, by getting in touch with our Equality Improvement team.
"I have experienced services that treat mental health and autism as completely separate issues and both services seem fearful of people with the other condition."