Autistic children and adults have high rates of co-occurring mental health conditions. Treatment or counseling from mental health professionals was common, however mental health services were difficult to access and parents of autistic children often report needing more mental health care. Psychotropic medication use is common in autistic children and adults, especially in those with co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression. Mental health conditions are also the most common cause for hospitalization in autistic children and adults. Autistic children with unmet need for mental health care were less likely to participate in their community than children who had no unmet need for mental health care.
The purpose of this report is to catalogue indicators of mental health and mental health care to highlight areas of needed improvement in practice and policy. Mental health care is an urgent priority and this report documents barriers that individuals and families face when trying to access mental health care. Good health and wellbeing require effective interventions and supportive policy to ensure that mental health needs of autistic children and adults are effectively addressed.
Rast, Jessica E., Garfield, Tamara, Roux, Anne M., Koffer Miller, Kaitlin H., Hund, Lisa M., Tao, Sha, Kerns, Connor M., Rosenau, Kashia A., Hotez, Emily, Anderson, Kristy A., Shattuck, Paul T., and Shea, Lindsay L. National Autism Indicators Report: Mental Health. Philadelphia, PA: Life Course Outcomes Program, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, August 2021
Forty-four percent of autistic students reported frequent anxiety or depression in their freshman year. Twenty-two percent of all other freshman students reported the same. Autistic students with frequent anxiety or depression were more likely to rate their emotional health below average than their peers without autism (27% versus 16%). Nearly three-quarters of autistic students reported being overwhelmed by all they had to do. Mental health conditions were more common in this group than in the overall group of autistic students, with 62% reporting a psychological disorder. However, the rate of ADHD was the same, while still higher than peers without autism