Kymberly Martin
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Survey call-out from Autism Queensland

Autism Queensland (AQ) is seeking input from adolescents and adults across Queensland who are on the autism spectrum and have a mental health condition, to help improve access to high-quality community mental health services that meet their unique needs. The organisation also wants to hear from family members and carers of people on the spectrum about autism and mental health. 

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The online survey is the first stage of the Creating Autism Friendly Community Mental Health Services Project, to develop and deliver autism-specific training for mainstream mental health professionals.

The training will incorporate the nature of co-occurring mental health conditions of people on the autism spectrum, differential diagnosis of autism and mental health conditions and adaptations to therapeutic strategies to support their specific needs.

The project comes on the eve of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. It’s also the start of Autism Awareness Month in Australia and Autism Queensland’s annual Go Blue for Autism campaign.

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Autism Queensland Autism and Mental Health Project leader, Davina Sanders said adults on the spectrum are more likely to experience clinical levels of depression and anxiety.

“Research found 53 per cent of youth on the spectrum without a co-occurring intellectual disability have a current anxiety diagnosis, with clinical anxiety and depression commonly occurring at the same time, and 64 per cent of adults on the spectrum experience poor sleep which is linked to the presence of a mental health condition.

“It can be harder for people on the spectrum to get the right mental health care, which is why Autism Queensland is developing training packages for mental health professionals to help them deliver effective mental health support to people on the spectrum,” she said.

The first stage involves a survey and interviews with people on the spectrum, and their families, to learn about their experiences of mental health services. Feedback is also being sought from general practitioners and mental health practitioners about their confidence and experience in supporting people on the spectrum who may have co-occurring mental health conditions, that is also being collected via an online survey.

According to Sanders, this will help identify gaps in practitioner knowledge of autism, their confidence in supporting people on the spectrum and barriers to effective service delivery. Data gathered from the interviews will inform the content of a series of training packages for mental health professionals.

An advisory group of adults on the spectrum, and a consultant with lived experience of autism and mental health, will also provide guidance in the creation of training materials.

The survey is anonymous and takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

The project is funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency as part of the NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) Mainstream Capacity Building Program.

For more information and survey links visit: https://autismqld.com.au/services/professional-learning-development/autism-mental-health-services-project/