• Development and validation of the suicidal behaviours questionnaire - autism spectrum conditions in a community sample of autistic, possibly autistic and non-autistic adults

      Cassidy, Sarah; Bradley, Louise; Cogger-Ward, Heather; Rodgers, Jacqui; University of Nottingham; University of Bedfordshire; University of Lincoln; Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Newcastle University (Biomed Central, 2021-06-21)
      Autistic people and those with high autistic traits are at high risk of experiencing suicidality. Yet, there are no suicidality assessment tools developed or validated for these groups. A widely used and validated suicidality assessment tool developed for the general population (SBQ-R), was adapted using feedback from autistic adults, to create the Suicidal Behaviours Questionnaire-Autism Spectrum Conditions (SBQ-ASC). The adapted tool was refined through nine interviews, and an online survey with 251 autistic adults, to establish clarity and relevance of the items. Subsequently, 308 autistic, 113 possibly autistic, and 268 non-autistic adults completed the adapted tool online, alongside self-report measures of autistic traits (AQ), camouflaging autistic traits (CAT-Q), depression (PHQ-9), anxiety (ASA-A), thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness (INQ-15), lifetime non-suicidal self-injury, and the original version of the suicidality assessment tool (SBQ-R). Analyses explored the appropriateness and measurement properties of the adapted tool between the groups. There was evidence in support of content validity, structural validity, internal consistency, convergent and divergent validity, test-retest validity, sensitivity and specificity (for distinguishing those with or without lifetime experience of suicide attempt), and hypothesis testing of the adapted tool (SBQ-ASC) in each group. The structure of the SBQ-ASC was equivalent between autistic and possibly autistic adults, regardless of gender, or use of visual aids to help quantify abstract rating scales. The samples involved in the development and validation of the adapted tool were largely female, and largely diagnosed as autistic in adulthood, which limits the generalisability of results to the wider autistic population. The SBQ-ASC has been developed for use in research and is not recommended to assess risk of future suicide attempts and/or self-harm. The SBQ-ASC has been designed with and for autistic and possibly autistic adults, and is not appropriate to compare to non-autistic adults given measurement differences between these groups. The SBQ-ASC is a brief self-report suicidality assessment tool, developed and validated with and for autistic adults, without co-occurring intellectual disability. The SBQ-ASC is appropriate for use in research to identify suicidal thoughts and behaviours in autistic and possibly autistic people, and model associations with risk and protective factors.
    • Experience of mental health diagnosis and perceived misdiagnosis in autistic, possibly autistic and non-autistic adults

      Au-Yeung, Sheena K.; Bradley, Louise; Robertson, Ashley E.; Shaw, Rebecca; Baron-Cohen, Simon; Cassidy, Sarah (Sage, 2018-12-14)
      Previous research shows that autistic people have high levels of co-occurring mental health conditions. Yet, a number of case reports have revealed that mental health conditions are often misdiagnosed in autistic individuals. A total of 420 adults who identified as autistic, possibly autistic or non-autistic completed an online survey consisting of questions regarding mental health diagnoses they received, whether they agreed with those diagnoses and if not why. Autistic and possibly autistic participants were more likely to report receiving mental health diagnoses compared to non-autistic participants, but were less likely to agree with those diagnoses. Thematic analysis revealed the participants’ main reasons for disagreement were that (1) they felt their autism characteristics were being confused with mental health conditions by healthcare professionals and (2) they perceived their own mental health difficulties to be resultant of ASC. Participants attributed these to the clinical barriers they experienced, including healthcare professionals’ lack of autism awareness and lack of communication, which in turn prevented them from receiving appropriate support. This study highlights the need for autism awareness training for healthcare professionals and the need to develop tools and interventions to accurately diagnose and effectively treat mental health conditions in autistic individuals
    • Measurement properties of the suicidal behaviour questionnaire - revised in autistic adults

      Cassidy, Sarah; Bradley, Louise; Cogger-Ward, Heather; Shaw, Rebecca; Bowen, Erica; Glod, Magdalena; Baron-Cohen, Simon; Rodgers, Jacqui; University of Nottingham; University of Bedfordshire; et al. (Springer Verlag (Germany), 2020-03-03)
      We explored the appropriateness and measurement properties of a suicidality assessment tool (SBQ-R) developed for the general population, in autistic adults-a high risk group for suicide. 188 autistic adults and 183 general population adults completed the tool online, and a sub-sample (n = 15) were interviewed while completing the tool. Multi-group factorial invariance analysis of the online survey data found evidence for metric non-invariance of the SBQ-R, particularly for items three (communication of suicidal intent) and four (likelihood of suicide attempt in the future). Cognitive interviews revealed that autistic adults did not interpret these items as intended by the tool designers. Results suggest autistic adults interpret key questions regarding suicide risk differently to the general population. Future research must adapt tools to better capture suicidality in autistic adults.
    • 'People like me don”t get support’: autistic adults’ experiences of support and treatment for mental health difficulties, self-injury and suicidality

      Camm-Crosbie, Louise; Bradley, Louise; Shaw, Rebecca; Baron-Cohen, Simon; Cassidy, Sarah (Sage, 2018-11-29)
      Autistic people are at high risk of mental health problems, self-injury and suicidality. However, no studies have explored autistic peoples’ experiences of treatment and support for these difficulties. In partnership with a steering group of autistic adults, an online survey was developed to explore these individuals’ experiences of treatment and support for mental health problems, self-injury and suicidality for the first time. A total of 200 autistic adults (122 females, 77 males and 1 unreported) aged 18–67 (mean =  38.9 years, standard deviation =  11.5), without co-occurring intellectual disability, completed the online survey. Thematic analysis of open-ended questions resulted in an overarching theme that individually tailored treatment and support was both beneficial and desirable, which consisted of three underlying themes: (1) difficulties in accessing treatment and support; (2) lack of understanding and knowledge of autistic people with co-occurring mental health difficulties and (3) appropriate treatment and support, or lack of, impacted autistic people’s well-being and likelihood of seeing suicide as their future. Findings demonstrate an urgent need for autism treatment pathways in mental health services.