A Suicidal Autistic Teen Needs a Psychological Evaluation Fast
Updated: Mar 5
Mental health experts are sounding the alarm regarding teen suicide tendencies and the importance of suicide prevention tactics like a thorough psychiatric evaluation when warranted. With the constant serious threat of mass shootings at schools across the country, it is not hard to figure out that kids in school today face many more emotional challenges than their parents did just a few decades ago.
While safety concerns impact every school student in Raleigh or elsewhere, autistic teens going through puberty are likely to have an even greater chance of attempting suicide.
Parents and school personnel should be vigilant in their efforts to identify depression, anxiety and/or suicidal ideation tendencies or behaviors in young teens in order to counteract this very real threat to our young people.
Difficulty in Identifying Depression in Autistic Kids
Kids who are autistic often have greater difficulty going through puberty than their non-autistic peers. As risks of mental health conditions coinciding with autism continue, more mental health experts are stressing the urgency of identifying autistic kids who may be suffering from depression and possibly considering suicide.
However, the tried and true methods used on most young teens often won't work on teens diagnosed with autism. It is often necessary to have the child scheduled for a complete psychiatric evaluation with a mental health professional familiar with working with kids who are somewhere on the autism spectrum before depression is diagnosed.
Autistic Kids Often Have a Flat Affect
The term affect is something that the mental health community uses to describe someone's facial expressions as part of an assessment for mood status. A teen who looks sad but states she is happy could be hiding her underlying depression from others.
Autistic children will often appear to have a flat affect making it difficult to asses their inner mood and emotional status. Flat refers to a face that doesn't convey expression like most people's faces do. This means that the usual methods of identifying a young teen for depression and/or suicide risk might not work with autistic teens in the same way.
The autistic child could be very happy, but his face can look blank or uninterested in the conversation. Most autistic kids don't make eye contact when speaking with someone. This doesn't necessarily mean that the child is not listening.
Pay Attention to Changes in Behavior
There are some other commonly used identifiers that can signal possible depression that will work on autistic children too in some cases. These behaviors include mood swings, insomnia or sleeping too much, not eating enough, losing weight for no reason, not wanting to engage in usually enjoyable activities and many others.
If any of these clues for depression and/or suicidal tendencies are seen, the parent or teacher should immediately take steps to have the child undergo a full psychiatric evaluation by a licensed mental health therapist and/or a psychiatrist as soon as possible.
Start a Conversation About Suicide & Depression
Surprisingly, young teens that have autism often respond very well to direct communication techniques used in the mental health field. It is crucial to get a suicidal teen the appropriate professional mental health therapy and treatment right away.
Most kids with autism tend to become upset and can regress inside of themselves or have a violent outburst when the pressure becomes too much. The changes that occur during puberty might be the trigger to these new concerns for the autistic child.
Parents should address these concerns sooner rather than later. It may also be a good idea to involve a family doctor, school counselor or another trusted person to begin these important conversations if the parent doesn't feel comfortable with the topics.
Some Added Pressures on Autistic Teens During Puberty
Right about the time of puberty, most kids are motivated by peer pressure. This need for kids to feel connected and liked by others is especially difficult on teens with autism.
These kids often do not understand all of the subtle social expectations that begin sometime after puberty. It can be a particularly stressful time as other kids are beginning to explore their new sexual feelings by flirting or beginning to date.
To make things even worse, autistic teens often begin to struggle with schoolwork due to teachers expecting them to use more abstract reasoning skills that these children don't have yet. It is important for parents to communicate their child's needs adequately during this time period.
If you think that your autistic child is suffering from depression or has made a suicide threat or attempt, contact a local psychiatric office like Medpsych Integrated in Raleigh, NC, to schedule a psychiatric evaluation immediately. Visit https://www.medpsychnc.com.