Research has found that Autistic people are more likely to experience mental health issues than the general population.
Current evidence reports that around 50–80% of Autistic people also experience mental health conditions. There is also emerging evidence to suggest that Autistic women and girls experience higher rates of mental illness than Autistic men and boys.
Common mental health conditions experienced by Autistic people include depression, anxiety disorders and/or obsessive compulsive disorder.
These facts highlight the urgent need for mental health services and resources that are designed for and with Autistic people.
There are many barriers that make it harder for Autistic people to get the right mental health care.
These can include low autism awareness and understanding by mental health practitioners, communication difficulties (particularly when a person is non-verbal), sensory sensitivities and a lack of coordination and collaboration between mental health, mainstream health, disability services and other sectors, including education, employment, justice and housing.
Poor autism understanding can lead to healthcare professionals assessing an Autistic person’s mental health concerns as simply part of their autism. When this happens, the individual’s mental health issues are often not properly diagnosed or treated, resulting in poor outcomes for their health and wellbeing.
Autistic individuals, like any other Australian, have the right to access mental health services and feel safe doing so.
Mental health services need to be better resourced and educated to support Autistic people.
Together with other autism and mental health organisations, Amaze is working with the Victorian Government to ensure its mental health reforms (following the Mental Health Royal Commission) deliver improved mental health and wellbeing for Autistic people. We are also supporting the Australian government’s development of a roadmap to improve the health and mental health of Autistic people.
In particular, we are advocating for:
To find out more about autism and mental health, contact the Amaze Autism Connect advisors on 1300 308 699, email [email protected] or use the webchat on this site. This service is open from 8am–7pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).
If you are experiencing distress or poor mental health and need urgent crisis support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or go to www.lifeline.org.au (24/7).
Adams, D, Young, K (2021), ‘A Systematic Review of the Perceived Barriers and Facilitators to Accessing Psychological Treatment for Mental Health Problems in Individuals on the Autism Spectrum’, Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 8: 436-453.
Foley, K-R, Trollor, J (2015), ‘Management of mental health in people with autism spectrum disorder’, Australian Family Physician, 44(1): 784-790.
Lai, MC, Kassee, C, Besney, R, Bonato, S, Hull, L, Mandy, W, Szatsmari, P, Ameis, S (2019), ‘Prevalence of co-occurring mental health diagnoses in the autism population: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, The Lancet Psychiatry, 6(10): 819-829.