During this World Autism Acceptance Week, our focus is on raising awareness for the 700,000 individuals in the UK who live with autism. Our goal is to educate those who may not be familiar with the condition and to create a more supportive and inclusive environment for those who are affected by it.
What is autism?
Autism is a neurological difference that affects the way the brain functions. It is not a disease or illness, and it can either be present from birth or develop in early childhood. While autism cannot be cured or treated as a medical condition, some individuals may require assistance with certain tasks or activities.
Autism and mental health
Autism can affect an individual’s mental health just like anyone else, and research by the autism charity Autistica has found that seven out of ten autistic people have a mental health issue, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or OCD.
While the exact reason for this is not clear, it may be due to the challenges that autistic people face, some of which may be:
- Challenges in understanding and communicating emotions
- Heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli
- Difficulty with unexpected changes
- Strong interests in particular topics
- Challenges in interpreting body language, sarcasm, and facial expressions
It’s important to note that experiencing one or more of these traits doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is autistic. However, if these traits are consistently present and affecting an individual’s daily life, they may consider speaking to their GP about seeking a formal diagnosis.
Looking after your mental health
If you are on the autistic spectrum, just the same as any young person, it is vital that you get professional help when you need it. But it’s equally important to look after yourself. We recommend regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep and talking things through with people you know and trust.
You might find unexpected changes very stressful, so trying to keep daily routines as predictable as possible and this will help you to reduce anxiety.
Supporting someone with autism
If you are worried about an autistic friend’s mental wellbeing, it is important to talk to them, and encourage them to look after themselves and seek specialist help if needed.
Autistic young people might find it harder to communicate how they feel, so here are some tips that can help you to have a positive conversation:
Background noise, bright lights, and even the tiniest of sounds be quite distracting, making a challenging discussion much more difficult.
If you’re in crisis and need to speak to someone: