Open Letter to the Government

Wednesday 1 May 2024

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This week has seen the conclusion of yet another inquest into the death of an autistic person who has died by suicide. Aged only 16, Caitlyn Scott-Lee chose to end her life. Rather than being an isolated incident, this is a tragedy that is being repeated far too often for the 1.2 million autistic people in the UK today. 

The number of autistic people dying by suicide year after year is a national scandal.

  • 1 in 3 autistic people have experienced suicidal ideation and nearly 1 in 4 have attempted suicide.  
  • Autistic people are 7 times more likely to die by suicide than non-autistic people.   
  • Suicide is one of the two main causes of death in autistic people.   

Additionally, in over half of the autistic suicides the Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge (ACE) has examined to date where coroners wrote a ‘Prevention of Future Death’ report, coroners chose to raise concerns at a national level [1].

These statistics are damning evidence of a Government which has failed to provide autistic people with the support they both need and are entitled to. 

Too many autistic people are dying by suicide. The Government has access to national data sets and inquest findings but there is no focus on collating and reviewing that information, to learn what is going wrong and identify what action needs to be taken. 

Many individuals and organisations have already committed to tackling this problem. But we need the Government to work with us – matching our resolve and commitment with funding and real action. We are calling for:  

  • The Government to publish the number of deaths by suicide of autistic people annually, to show the scale of the issue and to acknowledge the increased risk of suicide autistic people face. 
  • A stronger focus on autistic people within the Government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy, with timely and targeted actions that drive meaningful change. 
  • A guarantee of new and appropriate funding and resources to deliver these actions. 
  • Improved guidance for coroners and medical examiners about the risk of suicide in autistic people and how to take this into account as part of their work. 

Signed by:

Tom Purser CEO, Autism Centre of Excellence at Cambridge (ACE)

Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive, National Autistic Society

Ged Flynn, Chief Executive, PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide

Julie Bentley, Chief Executive Officer, Samaritans

Laura Bunt, Chief Executive, Young Minds

Dr Suzi Godson and Dr Kerstyn Comley, Co-CEOs, Tellmi mental health service for young people

Professor David Mosse FBA FAcSS, Professor of Social Anthropology, SOAS University of London

Professor Jacqui Rodgers, Chair in Psychology and Mental Health, Newcastle University

Dr Rachel Moseley, Principal Academic in Psychology, Bournemouth University

Dr Sarah Cassidy, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham

Professor Sir Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge

Chris Packham, Broadcaster and Campaigner, ACE Ambassador

Jools Holland, OBE DL, ACE Ambassador

Mr Jonathan K. W. Scott-Lee

Melanie Leahy and Julia Hopper, #matthewscampaign

[1] Data gathered via Richards, GC. 2024. The Preventable Deaths Tracker.