It has been reported that often there is insufficient attention to the mental health and mental illness of people with autism. The reality is anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias can affect any one of us regardless of being on the spectrum.
According to Mind 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Of course there are different types of mental health problems, from depression, anxiety, to PTSD and eating disorders, each individual will manifest a mental health problem in a very unique way.
Mind report that 17 in 100 people have had suicidal thoughts, 3 in 100 have self-harmed in their lifetime. 3 to 5 people in 100 have personality disorders, 1 to 3 in every 100 have a bipolar disorder, and 1 to 3 people in every 100 have schizophrenia, it’s clear this isn’t just a spectrum issue.
The National Autistic Society state that research indicates 70 per cent of children with autism develop mental health problems, while 16-35 per cent of autistic adults have a comorbid psychiatric disorder.
Highlighted from research conducted by Mind found that 70 per cent of people with autism are at risk of suffering from depression and severe anxiety. Their consultations with over 120 people on the spectrum confirmed that though the diagnosis helps to make sense of things and understand their situation, specific support is still lacking and information already available is not easily accessible to people with autism.
Providing specialist support for adults with autism is something we are well versed in. Not only have we been aware of the need to care for mental health, quite uniquely we appointed a clinical and residential support worker to lead on the mental health and welfare of service users and staff within Goldcrest House.
Working with a consultant educational psychologist we consult with our service users to develop strategies that support their physical and mental needs and development towards normalisation and inclusion.
Mental hygiene is very important and through our on-going assessments we are able to develop behaviour strategies and support plans to minimise the likelihood of high levels of clinical care.
We are able to monitor and pick up on the issues that can become worse if not addressed amongst those in society that find it incredibly difficult to articulate how they feel.
Mind is keen to point out they are trying to promote that mental health problems faced by people with autism may not be directly linked to their diagnosis. Service providers must be aware of the implications in terms of how the person will interact with the physical environment as well as with other people.
I’d say this is true for any of us not just those on the spectrum, here at Goldcrest House we prefer to look at mental health as part of a holistic programme of person centred care and wellbeing.
The definition of wellbeing is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy, we support this through physical, mental, social and emotional activities. Feeling happy, relaxed and supported has without a doubt resulted in less anxious and tense service users here at Goldcrest House.
Part of this process is to consider likes, dislikes, ambitions, talent, and skills through consultation and observation which allows for the development of a person-centred plan that nurtures and encourages personal development without overwhelming the individual.
It’s about small steps and gradual progression; no one is forced into a situation they don’t feel comfortable. Our service users are encouraged within the supportive structure of Goldcrest House.