The Association Between COVID-19 and Suicide Risk Factors in Australian Autistic Adults
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the world’s population, with particularly negative effects on individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism. Although some consensus regarding specific impact on aspects of wellbeing and mental health in autism is starting to emerge, it is unclear whether the pandemic has increased suicide risk. Compared to the general population, autistic people are at heightened risk of poor mental health and suicide. Yet little is known of the impact of COVID-19 on autistic adults, or whether the pandemic has exacerbated risk in this already vulnerable population. In this mixed-method survey study we examined associations between self-reported COVID-19 impact, personal wellbeing (PWI-A), depression (PHQ-8) and suicide risk factors (SBQ-R). Participants were 111 autistic adults (women = 58.6%, men = 32.4%, non-binary = 9%) aged 20-17 years (M = 42.45, SD = 13 years). Data were collected between October and December, 2020, following the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia (i.e., June to October, 2020) (World Health Organization, 2021). We also considered age and gender effects, and explored participants’ responses to COVID-19 using qualitative analysis.