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Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders

Posted Nov 15 2012 8:45pm

For those who don’t read Left Brain/Right Brain regularly, know that I am constantly bothered by the lack of attention to understanding the needs of autistic adults that I see in much of the ongoing research and in many parent-advocacy groups. My child is still somewhat young, but I realize that real understanding comes with time. Not only will attention to autistic adults provide benefit for those already of age, but it will set the stage for a better life for the autistic children of today.

When I see an study titled “Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders”, I am taken aback by just how serious this question is. The study out of Japan is preliminary but they found 7.3% of patients seen for attempted suicide are autistic. Take whatever prevalence for autism among adults you think is appropriate. I suspect the autism prevalence in adults is closer to 1%, but that’s still a 7x higher rate of attempted suicide. Much of the resistance to focusing attention on the needs of adults comes from groups promoting the idea of a vaccine-induced autism epidemic. If you believe the autism prevalence in adults is something like 1 in 10,000 (0.01%), this is would mean that autistic adults are attempting suicide in Japan at a rate of 700 times greater than the general population.

Our results indicate that ASDs should always be a consideration when dealing with suicide attempts in adults, in particular, in cases of males. Individuals with ASDs attempted suicide using serious methods, and, therefore, they may have a tendency to complete it at a first attempt. This was only a preliminary study. Thus, the clinical features of individuals with ASDs who attempt suicide must be clarified. In addition, interventions focusing on preventing suicide attempts in individuals with ASDs are required.

Yes, autistics are not only attempting suicide more often, they are using more serious methods. Like cutting/stabbing one’s self. Like jumping from heights or carbon monoxide intoxication.

The autistics in this study had the same (or a little higher) education level as the non-autistics who were attempting suicide. While psychiatric history was high (about 50%) it was lower in the autistic group than the non-autistics.

There are more comparisons made and which could be discussed but, for now, I’ll bring this back to: autistics in this study are attempting suicide more often and with more serious methods than non-autistics. If that doesn’t make people consider the importance of understanding the unique needs of autistic adults, I don’t know what will.

Here is the abstract Clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders

OBJECTIVE The objective of this study was to investigate the frequency and clinical features of suicide attempts in adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

METHODS We enrolled 587 consecutive patients aged 18 or over who attempted suicide and were hospitalized for inpatient treatment. Psychiatric diagnoses, suicide attempt frequency and clinical features were compared between ASD and non-ASD patients.

RESULTS Forty-three (7.3%) of the 587 subjects who attempted suicide had ASDs. The incidence of patients with mood disorders was significantly lower (Fisher’s Exact Test, P=.043) and that of those with an adjustment disorder was significantly higher (Fisher’s Exact Test, P<.001) in the ASD group than in the non-ASD group. The average length of stay at both the hospital and intensive care unit in the ASD group was longer than that in the non-ASD group (z=-2.031, P=.042; z=-2.322, P=.020, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS ASDs should always be a consideration when dealing with suicide attempts in adults at the emergency room.


By Matt Carey



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