Friday, 6 October 2017
Autism - Being Clear On Mental Health
Autism is not a mental health condition. And yet, some autistic people are forced into lives so appalling that they develop anxiety, depression and similar.
Others are misdiagnosed with mental health conditions, by diagnostic teams who don't understand what autism is, and isn't. For example, misdiagnosis as schizophrenia, from asking questions like, "Do you hear voices?". An autistic person will give a literal response to that. Of course we do. When people speak to us, for example.
We know from the recent Autistica charity report that autistic people are far more likely to commit suicide, after a lifetime of being told we're broken and a disaster for society. After a lifetime of being forced into environments that are painful (when a few £ spent on changing things would have changed that). After a lifetime of being treated like monsters and accused of not having empathy (when the reality is that we are as likely to be empathetic as anyone else).
What we have seen is a disaster for autistic people. A disaster caused by a system that has too often treated us as a nuisance, as something to be removed from society.
What I love, at the moment, is the number of autistic people who are finding a voice. A voice through social media. A voice in research, for example the Participatory Autism Research Collective. A voice at national events and conferences, for example the Autscape events.
What can we do to help safeguard autistic lives?
We can start with respect, and love.
We can start with learning about autism, and understanding that our clarity is not rudeness, not anger.
We can start with assuming competence.
We have had a lot of 'autism industry' who are paid a fortune to treat autistic people as medical conditions to be cured. Decades later, not only is no-one cured, but a lot of damage has been done. Autism isn't a disease. It's a neurodiversity. Part of the natural spectrum of brain designs. What on earth have we been trying to 'cure'?
We are seeing too many experiencing breakdowns after being forced through compliance training regimes. We are seeing too many who are vulnerable to predators, after years of being told to obey instructions. We are seeing too many who have reached exhaustion after being told to mask autism at all costs.
I work for a world where there is caring. Friendship. Acceptance and inclusion. Where we work together with allies of all kinds, collaboratively and responsibly. Each valuing what the other brings.
If that's the future you want, autistic people want to hear from you. Whether you are a researcher, a teacher, a parent, a friend. Whether you are a Politician or a business leader. Whatever your background, you have here two million in the UK alone who are fabulous additions to this world. On average, more moral than others. On average, more fair. On average, more passionate about our specialist skills. Passionate about art, music, sport, science, academic pursuits, writing...in fact every area of life.
Be part of this.
Find out more. Look on social media for the #actuallyautistic hashtag. Start the conversation.
The picture shows a person sitting on a boardwalk, looking out over water and forest. They are on their own.