Forum: Tailor mental health support to those with autism

I refer to the article "IMH, agencies to team up on youth mental health" (Oct 8).

There is currently a lack of awareness of autistic people's mental health needs. Their different social and communication needs mean that existing mental health support is unable to address their needs.

A United States study has found that nearly 78 per cent of autistic children have at least one mental health condition and nearly half have more than that. In contrast, only 14 per cent of non-autistic children have mental health conditions.

A Swedish study found that the risk of suicide in individuals with mild autism is about 10 times higher than in the general population.

I call upon the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to find better ways to support autistic people, like extending peer support services to them and giving mental health workers additional training on how to help people with autism.

Boosting group-based belonging is highly therapeutic for mental health. Can SG Enable dedicate a safe space for people with autism and their families to organise events and activities?

People with autism are at risk of bullying and exploitation that can be highly traumatic.

I call upon the Singapore Police Force to look out for the online autism community to deter nefarious people and educate people with autism. The Singapore Penal Code on sexual grooming and abuse should also be extended to protect autistic adults who lack the capacity to give consent even though they are not intellectually disabled.

While getting a diagnosis validates one's differences and is a key mental wellness milestone, this is hindered by discrimination, such as from insurers and providers of early childhood courses, resulting in many people with autism never seeking their diagnosis.

In addition, mental disorders are also psychiatric disabilities that the Enabling Masterplan 2030 should also address.

I would like to see a mental wellness committee comprising autism, disability and mental health advocates to advise the Enabling Masterplan Steering Committee on these highly nuanced issues.

Eric Chen Yixiong

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