Autistic Spectrum Disorder- Part 2
Teenagers with Autistic Spectrum Disorder ASD often threaten suicide which is very stressful for parents. Each family is unique in its structure and quality of relationships and functioning. Parents and carers in this siutation when a child is threatening suicide and self harming are subject to very significant levels of stress. Their natural preoccupation with the idea that their child could die by suicide can become intolerable.
Professionals working with families in this situation should take a compassionate stance and be able to listen to parents in this situation. The professionals in question could be teachers or social workers or youth offending service worker etc. The family system and professional system around the these children with ASD who threaten suicide or make suicide attempts, have to understand the needs and thoughts of the young person and then stay calm.
The Stay Alive app is an example of a structured approach to give to a young person to manage suicidal thoughts and develop a structure to cope and to find hope and safety. If the young person can connect parents when suicidal that is best. A problem shared is a problem halved. However young people often struggle on their own to cope and do not talk to their parents. Furthermore if the young person has ASD and is very literal in their thinking they can easily feel hopeless and fear that that they will die becasue they are thinking about it. This is an incorrect assumption. We see many young people with ASD who express hopelessness and believe that nothing really matters.
Initailly a mental health professional would be looking to engage in discussion with a young person, identify depression, treat depression and develop risk management plan with the young person and the family. The first meeting with a young person with ASD and their family in this setting needs to be positive, needs to offer hope and enable the young person and the family to get to the next meeting. And so we begin our journey with the young person with ASD and their family.
We have to absorb and digest the anxiety within the family and professional system even if we are under our own pressures. This is most challenging and the subject of the next blog.