People with autism spectrum disorder are dying at twice the rate of the general population, a landmark Australian study published on Tuesday has found.
The biggest cause of death is injury or poisoning from suicide, self-harm or accident, the University of NSW analysis involving the records of almost 36,000 people with the disorder in NSW showed.
The “alarming” findings have prompted the study researchers and advocates to call for a high-level, whole of system response to prevent these avoidable deaths.
Professor Julian Trollor, senior study author and chairman of Intellectual Disability Mental Health at UNSW, said the “major health gap” for people with ASD deserves a “co-ordinated, cohesive, high-level response”.
Joshua Klumper was 17 years old with autism spectrum disorder and was trying to be “normal” to get the help he needed when he took his life in 2017.
When Josh was 15 years old he was attacked by a stranger he had befriended because he believed he was lonely. The traumatic event triggered sudden major depressive episodes and repeated suicide attempts.
But his expressionless “poker face” meant his mental anguish was invisible to healthcare workers during multiple visits to hospital emergency departments, his mother Ursula Wharton said.
In September 2017, during Josh’s final visit to an emergency department, a nurse told him “if you’ve had this problem all your life and we haven’t been able to fix you yet we are not being able to fix you tonight,” Ms Wharton said.
The moment destroyed any hope Josh had that he could get help in the health system, she said.
Source: ABC News