Autism and mental health

Research has found that autistic people are more likely to experience mental health issues than the general population.

Sad young woman resting her head on her hands

Autism and mental health conditions

Current evidence reports that around 50–70% 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.

The most common mental health conditions experienced by autistic people are 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.

Barriers to treatment

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.

What needs to change

Mental health services need to be better resourced and educated to support autistic people.

Amaze welcomed the Victorian Government’s commitment in December 2017 to develop a strategy to improve autism understanding across health workforces, and we continue to advocate to the government to ensure this strategy is created, with autistic people at its centre.

In particular, Amaze is working to ensure the Victorian Government:

  • Develops a strategy for autism and mental health in an updated State Autism Plan, which includes the roll out of autism specialist mental health services and a strategy for autism training and professional development of mental health service professionals and staff.
  • Ensures all public hospital and healthcare facilities provide dedicated quiet spaces.
  • Increases funding to mental health and community health services so they have the capacity to provide services and support for autistic people with a co-occurring mental health condition.
  • Improve autism recognition and understanding, together with improved service coordination and collaboration across sectors.

 Read more about Amaze’s systemic advocacy work.

For more information

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). 

You can also read more on the Resources and Useful Links pages of this website.

If you are experiencing distress or poor mental health and need urgent crisis support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or go to (24/7).

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