Suicide Risk in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploratory Discussion

  • Tony Salvatore
  • Jerrod Brown
  • Bethany Hastings
  • Barbara Luskin
  • Julie Martindale

Abstract

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects an individual’s development and creates a unique set of daily challenges and stressors.  The chronic strain of this disorder can contribute to increased suicide risk.  This article investigates suicidality, suicide risk factors specific to adults with autism, protective factors against suicidality in persons with autism, obstacles to identifying and helping this population, and policy and programming recommendations.  Criminal justice, mental health professionals, and other groups that have contact with this population must be able to identify the disorder and understand what resources are available.

 

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), suicidality, policy, evaluation

Author Biographies

Tony Salvatore
Tony Salvatore, M.A., manages suicide prevention at Montgomery County Emergency Service, a psychiatric crisis response service, and hospital, in Norristown, PA. Tony has written articles and developed training and suicide prevention and postvention resources for police officers and emergency medical services (EMS) staff on suicide crisis intervention e. He is an advocate for increasing suicide prevention efforts on behalf of older adults, persons with serious mental illness, individuals with developmental disabilities, and others with special needs.
Jerrod Brown
Jerrod Brown, M.A., M.S., M.S., M.S., is the Treatment Director for Pathways Counseling Center, Inc. Pathways provides programs and services benefiting individuals impacted by mental illness and addictions. Jerrod is also the founder and CEO of the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS), and the Editor-in-Chief of Forensic Scholars Today (FST). Jerrod is currently in the dissertation phase of his doctorate program in psychology. 
Bethany Hastings
Bethany Hastings, M.A., AT, is a Lead Therapist and the art therapist at the Lazarus Project, Plymouth, Minnesota, working with clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has her master’s degree in Adlerian Psychology with a dual degree in Art Therapy (AT). Bethany is currently working toward Licensed Professional Counselor licensure and board certification in AT.
Barbara Luskin
Barbara Luskin, Ph.D., LP, is a licensed psychologist at the Autism Society of Minnesota. Dr. Luskin has worked closely with children and adults with ASD for more than 30 years in professional and home settings. She specializes in providing both assessments and counseling to individuals with ASD and those who support them. Dr. Luskin’s services include diagnostic and functional assessments, individual therapy for adults and adolescents, training and consultation for caregivers. Dr. Luskin helps her clients understand ASD, teaches them creative and effective interventions, helps them evaluate progress, and provides guidance when adjustments are needed. To learn more about the Autism Society of Minnesota’s Mental Health Services programs, visit www.ausm.org. 
Julie Martindale
Julie Martindale, B.A., has spent 25 years working in the field of foster care and adoption and has worked extensively with individuals who have FASD. As a mental health advocate and disability educator, she has worked with many families and professionals to better understand the impact of FASD on our communities. In addition, she is currently working toward a national certification as a Peer Support Specialist. She and her husband are parents to 11 children, most adopted through the foster care system, five of whom live with FASD and its challenges.