Silhouette of a person with their head in their hands. Text next to the image reads 'Autism and suicide awareness training'

NHS Greater Manchester has commissioned life-saving online training to support those who are concerned that an autistic person they know may be at risk of suicide

NHS Greater Manchester has commissioned life-saving online training to support autistic people at risk of suicide.

Working in partnership with Zero Suicide Alliance, the training will give people the confidence and skills to understand more about some of the challenges autistic people may face and how these can contribute to suicidal thoughts.

There can be a variety of factors that increase suicide risk for autistic people*.

Autistic people can find it difficult to communicate their thoughts and emotions, and they also may try to mask their autistic traits. Masking is when someone actively hides their autistic traits in social situations in order to ‘fit in’ with the people around them. This can have a negative impact on the mental health of an autistic person. It is also common for an autistic person to get stuck on or continuously mull over a particular thought or behaviour. Therefore, if suicide crosses their mind, it may be more likely to stay there.

The training is for anyone who cares for, works with or has a personal and professional relationship with an autistic person.

It was developed in partnership with a steering group of more than 200 people, including autistic people, carers, families bereaved by suicide and clinical experts. The training has been informed by research, evidence and lived experiences.

Over 1,000 people registered to join the online launch event for the training, which took place during World Autism Acceptance Week (2-8 April)

The event shared more about how and why the training was developed, including personal stories and insights.  The event also offered a preview of the new training.

Adele Owen, NHS Greater Manchester Suicide Prevention and Bereavement Support Lead, said:

“Autistic people face barriers in many areas of society. Launching our new training package during World Autism Acceptance Week felt like the right opportunity to highlight that suicide is a leading cause of early death for autistic people. Work needs to be done to ensure the right support is in place.

“We believe that every suicide is preventable. If we break the stigma around suicide, people may feel more comfortable in speaking up and finding the right support.

“Our Shining a Light on Suicide campaign aims to encourage everyone to talk openly about suicide, including suicidal thoughts and suicide bereavement. This training is an important part of that.

“It is crucial that autistic people, and their families and carers, can access the right support. Often people can be concerned that an autistic person in their life is at risk of suicide, but feel awkward having a conversation or worried that they will say the wrong thing. Training like this, which includes the views and experiences of autistic people, can make you feel more confident to have that conversation and ultimately save a life.”

Jav, who lives in Rochdale and shares his experiences as an autistic person as part of the training, said:

“I volunteered to be a part of this programme of work because I’m neurodivergent and I went through periods of difficulties.

“When I had suicidal thoughts, I struggled to express my feelings, and I became significantly isolated.

“The training aims to help understand the different ways an autistic person could be showing signs that they’re feeling suicidal, and the approaches that could be taken when talking to them about it.

Alex Close, Zero Suicide Alliance Project Manager, said:

“NHS Greater Manchester funded the training and worked with us throughout the development.

“We are so grateful to everyone who shared their personal experiences, as it helped us develop an authentic training course which based on real life experience.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we’ve received about the online launch event. We hope that people take this training and as a result, feel empowered and equipped to have important and potentially life-saving conversations.”

Further information and resources


Autism and Suicide Awareness Training

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