Uni expert identified as ‘future world leader’ in her field by research council

Uni expert identified as ‘future world leader’ in her field by research council

Dr Sarah Cassidy has been awarded a £250,000 grant by ESRC to research autism spectrum conditions

University news / Research news

Thursday 21 January 2016

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New study to develop UK-first mental health assessments for adults with autism
Research follows prestigious ESRC grant identifying Coventry University academic as 'future world leader' in her field

An expert in autism at Coventry University has been awarded a £250,000 grant by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to create the UK's first set of measures to guide health service providers in their support for adults with autism spectrum conditions (ASC).

Dr Sarah Cassidy from the University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement is one of only 38 academics worldwide to receive funding from the ESRC's Future Research Leaders programme, which identifies early-career academics who show world-leading potential in their field.

The three-year project will see Dr Cassidy carry out research to create a new valid set of measures which will enable health service providers such as the NHS to assess depression and the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and behaviours in adults with ASC.

Dr Cassidy will also use her research into ASC to establish the UK's first nationally representative 'big data' set containing rates of depression and suicidality in adults with the condition, which is intended to help other researchers to explore and analyse issues associated with autism spectrum conditions.

There are 700,000 individuals in the UK with an autism spectrum condition – mostly adults – and recent research by Dr Cassidy indicates an alarmingly high level of suicidal thoughts (66%), suicidal plans or attempts (32%) and depression (33%) in newly diagnosed adults.

Dr Cassidy said:

It's an honour to be awarded this grant as part of the ESRC's Future Research Leaders scheme, and I'm looking forward to starting my research and making a positive impact by increasing access to mental health assessment and support for adults with ASC.

The government has made it a priority for services to provide adults with ASC access to appropriate diagnosis, support and treatment for mental health problems. However, progress is hampered by the lack of research in this area. This means that service providers do not understand how problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviours can manifest in people with ASC, and therefore cannot effectively provide access to appropriate support and treatment. This has led to many adults with ASC slipping through the net.

We're really keen to hear from people affected by ASC, whether that's adults with the condition, their friends and family, charities or policymakers, because these are the people who can help drive the direction of the research and ensure it has a valuable long-term effect.

For more information about the project please see The Forgotten Half Million: New Methods for Mapping Mental Health Outcomes in Adults with Autism in the UK.

For further information, please contact Alex Roache, external press and media relations officer, Coventry University, on +44 (0)24 7765 5050 or email alex.roache@coventry.ac.uk.


The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the government.