Talking About Death or Suicide: Prevalence and Clinical Correlates in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Psychiatric Inpatient Setting

J Autism Dev Disord. 2018 Nov;48(11):3702-3710. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3180-7.


Little is known about suicidal ideation in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making it difficult to identify those at heightened risk. This study describes the prevalence of thoughts about death and suicide in 107 verbal youth with ASD with non-verbal IQ >55, assessed during inpatient psychiatric admission. Per parent report, 22% of youth with ASD had several day periods when they talked about death or suicide "often," or "very often." Clinical correlates included the presence of a comorbid mood (OR 2.71, 95% CI 1.12-6.55) or anxiety disorder (OR 2.32, 95% CI 1.10-4.93). The results suggest a need for developmentally appropriate suicide risk screening measures in ASD. Reliable detection of suicidal thoughts in this high-risk population will inform suicide prevention strategies.

Keywords: Autism Inpatient Collection (AIC); Autism spectrum disorder; Inpatient; Psychiatric patients; Screening; Suicidal ideation; Suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / complications
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Young Adult