Young people with autism being excluded from mental health services

AsIAm chief executive Adam Harris said current procedures for mental health services "leave autistic people behind"
Young people with autism being excluded from mental health services

Muireann Duffy

Autistic people are being left behind due to barriers in accessing mental health services, according to autism charity, AsIAm.

Ahead of the national autism conference, which is being held in Malahide, the group highlighted that children and young people with autism are often excluded from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs).

"We need to see the issue of mental health addressed by reducing the bureaucracy and misconceptions that leave autistic people behind," AsIAm chief executive Adam Harris said ahead of the conference, the theme of which is 'Same Chance: Removing Barriers for Autistic People'.

"This includes ensuring parity of access, autism-proofing services and mandatory training for all professionals working with our community," he added.

Mr Harris claimed the Camhs' standard operating procedure "explicitly denies access to mental healthcare to autistic young people unless they have a diagnosed mental health need".

Describing the practice as "deeply problematic", he noted young people with autism are "statistically more likely to experience mental health challenges across their life cycle".

Mr Harris added that eight in 10 autistic people are thought to have a mental health condition during their life, while autistic adults are nine times more likely to die by suicide and autistic children are 28 times more likely to consider suicide.

"Despite these shocking realities, autistic people do not enjoy equal access to mental healthcare," Mr Harris said.

He argued the current system makes "blatantly unhelpful referrals", sending autistic people to disability teams who are not resourced to provide adequate mental healthcare.

The group is calling for interaction from the Department of Health, particularly in regards to the Interim Camhs report published last week, and specific training for healthcare professionals on providing mental healthcare to people with autism.

Mr Harris is among the speakers at Saturday's conference, and will be joined by Australian actress Chloé Hayden, known for her role in Netflix's Heartbreak High, expert on autism Dr Wenn Lawson, and consultant and founder of Autism in Context Dr Peter Vermeulen.

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