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There are 700,000 people in the UK with an autism spectrum condition (ASC) and the government has made it a priority for those adults to have access to appropriate diagnosis, support and treatment for mental health problems. But a lack of research in this area means that care service providers do not always fully understanding how problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviours can manifest in people with ASC, meaning effective support can’t always be given and many people slip through the net.

Researchers in our Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement have created the UK’s first set of measures to guide health service providers as part of a three-year project into building a support network for adults with ASC. Their world-leading work is addressing the needs of the UK’s ‘forgotten half million’ with the condition, and is creating a system through which all those adults in need can be given the right help.

The centre’s experts are exploring and trying to understand the unique challenges adults with ASC face in relation to mental health problems, self-injury, and thoughts about taking their own life, so they can lobby for policy change and better support to improve their quality of living.

The work is expected to lead to a new valid set of measures to enable health service providers such as the NHS to assess and identify depression and the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and behaviours in adults with ASC. It is also set to underpin the UK’s first nationally representative ‘big data’ set containing rates of depression and suicidality in adults with the condition, to help future researchers.

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