On October 7, Psychology Today released an article discussing the higher suicide risk faced by those on the Autism spectrum. Talk to any #ActuallyAutistic person and they will share their stories of struggle, depression, and anxiety all resulting from living a Sensory Life in a sensory un-friendly world. Sure, it is getting better but the damage of the past still must be dealt with and our Sensational children must be protected to minimize the future possible damage.
Our mental health is vitally important to living a happy and contented life. We all HAVE mental health but 1 in 5 of us suffers from mental illness – disorder – imbalance … 1 in 5. So even if you THINK you don’t know anyone struggling with a mental illness, you likely, actually do know someone – more than one someone – who is struggling. And if you don’t know about it then they are one of the millions struggling in silence.
But back to the focus here – Autism and Suicide. These are extremely sobering numbers to read. According to the article, which is summarizing two recently published studies, those with ASD have a MUCH lower life expectancy rate AND are 9 times MORE likely to commit suicide. Well, duh … HELLO!!!! Living a Sensory Life in this world is hard Hard HARD! Since so many have refused to listen to #ActuallyAutistic people in the past, maybe studies like these will help our voices be heard and valued more. (It is an optimistic day here at the moment.)
The first time I remember wanting to die I was in 3rd grade. In 1980 the school district was working towards de-segregating the schools and towards that end started bussing kids from their own school district into the minority school districts and vice versa. Riding a bus, everyday, twice a day, is murder on a Sensational kid. The new school environment combined with no friends was a nightmare for me. Add the twice daily bus ride and I was in constant sensory overload. For the record, it is not normal for a child in 3rd grade to want to die. My own parents worked full time jobs and I knew I was on my own with no one to talk to. My body was screaming from stress with repeated cold sores forming on my little mouth which made the bullying worse.
Fast forward three decades, and my older daughter is now experiencing her second serious bout of suicidal depression. She has been taking Celexa for a while now but it is obviously, no longer working. Her first bout of depression happened in 2nd grade. It was the deciding factor for pulling her out of the traditional school environment she was in. She was picked on, not just by the kids, but by the teachers as well. Her father had abandoned her and the emotional trauma of the separation and divorce all took their toll. My beautiful Miracle Baby was sobbing in my arms and telling me she just wanted to die so she could have some peace. Has this ever happened to you as a parent? Can you imagine this happening to you as a parent? What about as a kid? Can you imagine an 8 year old child feeling like she wanted to die? At least she has me to talk to – and good doctors – and a good therapist – and a wider understanding and acceptance of the different kind of life we must live. Her mental health is the most vitally important priority I have as her Mother and Sole Care Provider. There are very few other people in her life that she feels a close connection to and I am grateful everyday that one of those people is me!
Moral of the story? Value your Mental Health. Value it – Cherish it – Respect it – and then do the same for others. And help to protect these Sensational, vulnerable children. Let’s help them grow up to be strong, and wise, and strong, and capable because their Mental Health is healthy. They grow up to have positive self-esteem and are able to advocate for themselves in an assertive way when we give them those tools as children. We have our entire lives to learn – to educate ourselves. But these early years – these first 20 years – are precious and vital to our Sensational kiddos future health and survival. We shelter them and protect them while they are young so they may emerge into their 20s as strong, healthy, capable learning machines, ready to deal with the craziness of the outside world. A generally sensory un-friendly world … #SensoryLife