Suicide Safety Plans Customized for Autistic Youth

Process must be customized to meet needs of individuals who have trouble naming and sharing emotions. Recently, emergency departments nationwide have seen a drastic upswing in young autistic people presenting with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

In response, Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers, writing in Pediatrics, have suggested ways that clinicians and emergency department staff can adapt suicide safety plans to meet their special needs and enhance quality of care.

“Autistic youth experience stressors and emotional reactions in ways that are distinct from their peers,” said Jessica Schwartzman, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt. “Our usual approach to managing suicide risk won’t cut it with this population.”