Mind and the National Autistic Society have published a new guide to help professionals working with autistic adults dealing with anxiety, depression and loneliness.

The publication follows on from recently published research which revealed that more than nine in 10 autistic adults have experienced anxiety, with nearly 60% saying it affected their ability to get on with life.

As well as battling anxiety, 83% of adults with autism experienced depression, while eight times as many autistic adults reported feeling often or always lonely, compared to the general population.

Around nine in 10 autistic adults have experienced anxiety

In total, the new guide was informed by the views of more than 1,500 autistic people and almost 2,000 family members, as well as the views of mental health professionals.

Although autism itself is not a mental health condition, the number of people with autism who struggle with poor mental health is extremely high. This why the National Autistic Society’s autistic supporters have made it known that mental health should be their top priority. During the coronavirus pandemic, the mental health crisis for autistic people has only been exacerbated and there has been a dire need for mental health support.

Kerry McLeod, Head of Information Content at Mind, said: "We're proud to be part of this project and hope it makes a genuine difference to autistic children and adults.

"Many autistic people with mental health problems struggle to get appropriate support - and the pandemic has made things even harder. At Mind, we fight to make sure everyone with a mental health problem has access to the help they need so we were happy to contribute to this work. 

"Campaigning for high quality, timely mental health treatment for everyone who needs it is central to our work. We hope this guide goes some way to helping autistic people affected by mental health problems to access the support they need and deserve."

Simple adjustments and adaptations to talking therapies can make a huge difference to autistic people

Lauren-Rochelle Fernandez, an autistic adult and founder of “mask off” campaign who contributed to the research completed about mental health and autism, said: “I have struggled to get help my whole life. After I was diagnosed with autism and ADHD I reached out to a number of different services but as a black autistic woman I found myself often misjudged, mistreated and misunderstood”.  Cases like this make it very apparent that adjustments to mental health support services were necessary to help to those who are on the autistic spectrum.

The new good practice guide, funded by the Pears Foundation, sets out how often simple adjustments and adaptations to talking therapies (which are used widely by the NHS) can make a huge difference to autistic people.

The guide’s top recommendations for professionals are: improve autism understanding for all staff through training; make the physical environment in both waiting and therapy rooms less overwhelming; provide clear, concise and specific information about what to expect from your service and sessions before therapy starts; and to be flexible and adapt your communication to the needs of the person you’re supporting.